Wednesday

5th Oct 2022

EU mulls boat-sinking plans to curb migrant smugglers

Plans to destroy boats used by EU-bound migrants are among a list of ten EU-led solutions to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean.

The ideas were announced following a joint-meeting between EU interior and foreign affairs ministers in Luxembourg on Monday (20 April) and as part of a larger policy response on migration.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters a political decision had been made to launch a civil-military operation “to capture and destroy vessels used by smugglers”.

The boat-busting plan still needs an UN-backed mandate.

Human traffickers and smugglers are known to repossess the boats or skiffs for later use once migrants have boarded vessels from merchants or the Italian coast guard.

Avramopoulos compared the idea to the Atalanta naval military operation that scaled back Somali pirate attacks against large freighter ships passing through the Gulf of Aden.

“It [Atalanta] should inspire us for new operations against smugglers in the Mediterranean,” he said.

Details of the latest plans will be discussed by EU leaders on Thursday during an emergency summit called in response to the latest boating tragedy off the Libyan coast over the weekend.

Another idea is to expand with “more links to search and rescue” the operational scope and funding of the EU’s sea surveillance mission, Triton.

Although some seventeen member states are involved in the mission, Triton remains under-equipped with only one helicopter, two motor boats, two planes, and three larger ships. It also only operates within Italy’s coastal waters.

National governments have in the past voiced opposition to creating a broader EU-wide search-and-rescue operation for fear of a creating a 'pull-factor' - encouraging more migrants to come.

German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere, for his part, backs doubling Triton’s size and funding.

The most recent tragedy left about 800 migrants dead when their boat capsized 60 km off the Libyan coast early Sunday morning. The UN says Syrian and Eritrean nationals as well as children aged between 10 and 12 are among the victims.

Around 1,600 people have now died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015 alone, around 30 times more when compared to the same period for last year.

At least another 20 were reported dead in a separate incident on Monday after the International Organisation for Migration received a distress call from a sinking boat carrying some 300 people.

Slow response

The EU has been criticised for its slow response to the crisis.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said it is a result of the bloc's decision-making process.

“We all share this frustration. I think we don’t have to be afraid of showing the limits of the institutions and of the policy decision-making processes,” she said.

“Unfortunately, this has been the case for other tragedies in recent history where only a major tragedy provoked a sense of common urgency that raised one issue that everyone was aware of to the top of the agenda.”

Mogherini said counter-terrorism and measures to fight human trafficking are currently being stepped up through cooperation with countries neighbouring Libya such as Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.

Libya has become the main staging point for EU bound migrants and refugees.

Tie EU development aid to sending migrants home

The European Parliament, for its part, is to debate the migration issue next week.

Manfred Weber, who chairs the centre-right EPP group, told reporters in Brussels that development aid must be combined with agreements to return African nationals.

He said a clear distinction needs to be made between conflict-fleeing refugees from Syria to the many others who risk their lives to find work and other opportunities inside the EU.

“We will not solve the problems of Africa with more legal migration to the European Union,” he said.

This article was updated on Tuesday (21 April) at 16:42 to reflect updated comparative figures on the number of migrant deaths

Opinion

Facing the EU's migrant crisis

It is time for the European Union to take on the responsibility for solving the migration challenges it faces.

EU to 'capture and destroy' migrant traffickers' boats

EU leaders are to ask foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to look into setting up a defence mission that would "identify, capture and destroy vessels" potentially used by human traffickers.

MEPs condemn EU Commission 'leniency' on Hungary

MEPs criticised the EU Commission for what they see as the executive not being tough enough on the government of Viktor Orbán, as Hungary's parliament passed new legislation as part of a deal with the EU executive.

Opinion

What von der Leyen's 'State of Union' didn't mention

Ursula von der Leyen barely noticed that European democracy is under attack not only from external threats, but from within. Two of the world's leading autocratic countries are EU member states.

News in Brief

  1. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine
  2. France warns over incoming eighth Covid wave
  3. EU adds Anguilla, Bahamas and Turks and Caicos to tax-haven blacklist
  4. Czechs warn joint-nationality citizens in Russia on mobilisation
  5. Greece to unveil proposal for capping EU gas prices
  6. Four dead, 29 missing, after dinghy found off Canary Islands
  7. Orbán: German €200bn shield is start of 'cannibalism in EU'
  8. Lithuania expels top Russian diplomat

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. EU debates new pandemic-type loans to deal with crisis
  2. MEPs condemn EU Commission 'leniency' on Hungary
  3. Czech EU presidency wants asylum pledges to be secret
  4. European navies must stay on Suez trade routes, EU diplomats warn
  5. Macron's 'European Political Community' — how could it work?
  6. EU adopts common charger law, forces iPhone redesign
  7. Last-minute legal changes to Bosnian election law stir controversy
  8. EU wants probe into alleged war crimes by Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us