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3rd Jul 2022

UN chief says EU boat-sinking plan won't work

  • Ban Ki Moon predicted 'limited effectiveness' for EUnavfor Med (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

UN head Ban Ki Moon has criticised EU plans to destroy migrant-smugglers’ boats, while urging Europe to take in more people.

The South Korean diplomat told press in Brussels on Wednesday (27 May) that sinking boats will deprive local communities in north Africa of ways to earn a living.

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“When you consider destroying these boats, it may end up eventually depriving the very limited means of those people, even if those boats are sometimes used to smuggle people in criminal acts”, he said.

“I believe the military option has some limited, limited effectiveness”, he added.

“I am concerned that destroying these vessels has some other implications”.

The UN chief instead urged EU states to take in more refugees, asylum seekers, and economic migrants.

He said the EU should “explore legal alternatives to such dangerous journeys”, listing refugee resettlement, work and study visas, and family reunification schemes.

He “welcomed” a European Commission proposal, published earlier the same day, to redistribute 40,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy inside the EU.

He called it a “step in the right direction”, which “must have been subject to intense discussion and consultation by EU leaders”.

Speaking later on Wednesday at the European Parliament, he noted that about “half” of Mediterranean boat migrants are "fleeing war, persecution, or human rights abuses and qualify for international protection”.

He urged the EU to show “compassion” and “collective ... responsibility”. He also said that, given its ageing population, “to maintain its economic dynamism, Europe needs migrants”.

The UN head’s discouragement of EUnavfor Med, the naval project, follows similar swipes by leading NGOs and migration experts.

The EU’s own internal analysis, leaked to media in the past two weeks, also highlights pitfalls.

One paper, drawn up by the EU’s military committee, says there’s “a risk to EU reputation” if “loss of life be attributed to … the EU force”.

It notes military action inside Libya, as envisaged, risks “destabilising the political process by causing collateral damage, [and] disrupting legitimate economic activity”.

An earlier paper, drawn up by the EU foreign service, warns "of collateral damage including the loss of life [of migrants]”.

The EU plans to launch EUnavfor Med by July if it gets UN or Libyan approval.

The commission’s asylum seeker relocation plan won’t involve the UK, which used its EU opt-out.

Several other countries, including France, Poland, the Baltic states, and Hungary, have also rejected what they call EU-imposed “quotas”.

"The commission went beyond the agreement to stick to voluntary contributions, as was agreed in the extraordinary Council", a senior source from a Baltic state told EUobserver, referring to a recent EU summit on migration.

"It equals arm-twisting and a challenge to the considered opinion of the Council".

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