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18th Oct 2019

EU to present UN resolution to seize migrant smugglers’ boats

  • The EU will ask a UN mandate to capture boats before they are used to smuggle migrants to Europe through the Mediterranean sea (Photo: noborder network)

Two weeks after leaders said they wanted to destroy boats used by smugglers to bring migrants across the Mediterranean, the EU is getting ready to present a resolution to the UN Security Council and get the international backing it needs.

EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini will brief the Security Council on the issue on Monday (11 May) and a text prepared by the EU member states with a seat the council should be put forward for a vote.

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Next to permanent members Britain and France, Lithuania and Spain are currently non-permanent members of the council.


At the emergency summit on migration on 23 April, EU leaders tasked Mogherini to prepare plans to "identify, capture and destroy vessels before the are used by traffickers".

But UN backing is likely to be difficult with veto-holding China and Russia – in particular – especially wary of allowing military operations.

"Apprehending human traffickers and arresting these vessels is one thing, but destroying them would be going too far," Russia ambassador to the EU Vladimr Chizhov said on Tuesday.

"We can’t support going as far as destroying ships," he said, suggesting that Russia might support a less ambitious EU plan.

UN Secretary general Ban Ki Moon also said that "destroying the boats is not the appropriate way".

The EU resolution will exclude the destruction of boats in Libya’s territorial waters or of vessels sailing under international flags.

But the text will ask permission to seize vessels in high seas, as well as Libyan territorial waters and Libyan coast before they embark migrants.

According to the AFP news agency, operational plans will include a strengthening of the EU’s intelligence capacities in the region to identify traffickers and track their movements.

Phone tapping, information gathered by EU ships in the Mediterranean, as well as radar and aerial surveillance are the methods that will be used.

If the EU gets a UN green light in the coming weeks, it will still need time to work out the individual financial contributions of member states and asset contributions.

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