UN adopts resolution to seize smuggling vessels

UN adopted resolution to authorize European Union, individual countries to seize refugee-smuggling vessels on high seas off Libya

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The UN Security Council on Friday adopted a resolution to authorise the European Union and countries so that member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations can inspect vessels that are suspected of being used for smuggling or human trafficking from Libya.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said that “people cannot profit from this evil trade with impunity,” calling the crisis one of the greatest challenges of this generation.

The resolution, negotiated on and off for months, is under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.

Chapter 7 includes militarily enforcement on which African members - of the 15-member council - had expressed concern.

Despite the concerns, the council adopted the resolution with 14 “yes” votes.

The only council member abstained was Venezuela saying that the crisis requires a broader approach beyond a military one.

Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN said that Venezuela abstained because they believe that the crisis is being tackled in an "erroneous" fashion with "a military approach" while British Ambassador said Venezuela’s stand was “disappointing” as the military approach is a “small part” of the requirements.

The resolution suggest refugees “should be treated with humanity and dignity” also authorising that the EU and nations to board vessels “with a view to saving the threatened lives of migrants or of victims of human trafficking” over a one-year period.

The UN Refugee Agency announced in August that the number of refugees crossing the Mediterranean route this year has exceeded 300,000, with 2,987 being killed on the waters or gone missing.

Council diplomats have said that refugees on vessels that are searched and seized would be taken to Europe and the resolution is not meant to take individuals' fundamental rights for seeking protection from them.

The EU at first wanted to organise a sea operation on Libyan territorial waters and along its coast.

However, Libya whose approval is needed for such an operation objected the idea.

The UN envoy for Libya, late Thursday proposed a national unity government after months of difficult talks as the North African country remains stuck in between two rival governments despite, the UN’s efforts to lead into a final peace deal.

Rycroft urged the rival governments to “get with the programme” and support it as moving to the next phase of the EU operation, intercepting migrant-smuggling boats in Libyan waters, will require “clear consent” from Libya and another council resolution, Rycroft said.

Meanwhile, Libyan Ambassador Ibrahim O. Dabbashi said that they believe the crisis should be dealt with by addressing root causes, such as armed conflict, economic crisis and poverty, and this needs concerted efforts from the international community to assist Libya.

In Libya, after the former leader Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, during a countrywide turmoil, two rival parliaments for power and several groups fought for control over national wealth resources.

The resolution states that any action on disposal of a seized vessel must be taken in accordance with international law “with due consideration of the interests of any third parties who have acted in good faith.”

TRTWorld and agencies