EU decides to form naval force against human smugglers

EU foreign and defence ministers approve plan to form naval mission to target human trafficking boats in Mediterranean Sea

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

European Union foreign and defence ministers agreed on Monday to form a naval force to target boats used by human smugglers to carry migrants into Europe through Mediterranean.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini tweeted “Decision just taken to establish the EU naval operation to disrupt the business model of smugglers and traffickers networks in Mediterranean,” after the meeting of ministers in Brussels.

The naval mission, which is expected to start in June, aims to destroy the smuggler boats carrying migrants to Europe before reaching the shores.

Mogherini said the mission would be headquartered in Rome and led by an Italian admiral.

If all goes as planned the EU can take military action using air strikes against vessels docked in Libya suspected to be engaged in migrant trafficking.

EU also expects the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to pass a resolution giving the EU the mandate for more aggressive action that most ministers want.

Britain, France, Lithuania and Spain proposed a draft resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, to give the EU the authority to use military force “to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

WIthout the mandate from the UN, the EU cannot target or seize boats in territorial waters of Libya.

"Nothing will happen without a UN mandate," Austrian Defence Minister Gerald Klug said.

An initial step was taken towards an increased presence in the Mediterranean on April 23, when the European Union decided to increase patrols against human trafficking, following the deaths of more than 800 migrants on April 19.

Europe is facing an influx of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa as the humanitarian situation in the regions continues to deteriorate as a result of civil wars and poverty.

About 51,000 migrants entered Europe this year, as most of that number came via Italy with smugglers’ boats.

One thousand eight hundred and fifty people have died since the start of the year and over 10,000 people have been plucked from the sea during joint EU member state patrols.  

European Commission proposed a mandatory migrant quota system as countries like Italy and Malta complained about high influx of migrants and the financial burden it brings.

The proposed system would impose quotas to EU members to take in a number of migrants according to their population and national income.

Yet,  there is still uncertainty whether the proposal may be approved as the UK, Hungary, Slovakia and Estonia strongly oppose the idea.

TRTWorld and agencies