EU launches naval mission against migrant smugglers

EU ministers agree to launch naval operation in Mediterranean against human-traffickers

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

European Union foreign ministers on Monday officially approved the launch of a naval military operation against human-traffickers smuggling migrants from Libya into Europe across the Mediterranean.

The naval operation will take place in international waters and airspace.

In order to legally take military action in Libyan coastal areas and territorial waters the EU would need United Nations Security Council clearance and the consent of Libyan authorities.

Gaining Libya’s consent seems as if it would be a challenge as the country is in turmoil due to two rival governments in disputing control over the country’s territory.

"We will start implementing the first phase of the operation in the coming days. This covers information-gathering and patrolling on the high seas to support the detection and monitoring of smuggling networks," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Mogherini tried to make it clear that “The targets are not migrants. The targets are those that are making money on their lives and too often on their deaths.”

Mogherini also stated that the EU aims to “dismantle the business model” of human traffickers by destroying their boats.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that a senior EU diplomatic official - who spoke on condition of anonymity - has provided details on the military operation and said that five naval units led by Italian light aircraft carrier Cavour will be accompanied by two submarines, three maritime surveillance planes, two drones as well as two helicopters.

The EU has planned the military mission as a three phase process. In the second phase of the operation military personnel will have the authority to board ships, arrest smugglers and disable boats on the high seas.

The proposed third phase would involve an operation in Libyan waters or special forces missions on land.

A call for the naval mission came on May 19 due to the burden on EU countries caused by tens and thousands of people fleeing poverty and war-torn countries crossing the Mediterranean into Europe.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported on June 9 that almost 103,000 people have taken deadly boat trips across the Mediterranean Sea in order to reach Europe, where the issue of migrants and refugees has raised domestic and international concern.

Over 1,800 people have so far died trying to take the perilous voyage, with an estimated 800 being killed  following the most horrific accident when a boat with multiple floors capsized on April 19.

TRTWorld and agencies