UN resolution to apprehend traffickers on high seas back on agenda

Resolution to authorize EU military action on the high seas against traffickers could be adopted by the end of the month at the annual meeting of the General Assembly

Refugees rescued in the Channel of Sicily, Italy (File photo by Francesco Malavolta/IOM 2015)
Refugees rescued in the Channel of Sicily, Italy (File photo by Francesco Malavolta/IOM 2015)

EU member states this week will push for a United Nations Security Council resolution to allow their military forces take action on specific human trafficking routes from Libya and apprehend vessels on the high seas.

The draft resolution first presented earlier in the year by the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini, will be circulated among Council members in the coming days.

It would authorize military action on the high seas, but the proposal has been watered down from what was originally envisaged: a military operation along the Libyan coast, on land and water, to seize and disrupt the smugglers. Those plans were scuppered when no Libyan consent could be won.

The New York Times reported that the resolution would allow for “boats to be seized and for the people on board to be taken to Italy, where the authorities would determine who among them might be eligible for asylum because they were fleeing war or persecution.”

What’s In Blue also reported that the European Council governments were currently discussing with the non-EU permanent members of the Security Council the draft resolution authorising EU NAVFOR Med to intercept boats used by human trafficking networks on the high seas.

In an interview on Russia’s Channel One, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia “stands ready to approve coercive measures only if they are strictly regulated and set out in every detail in the resolution, leaving no space for any equivocal interpretation” and called for more information regarding what the EU planned to do with refugees found on board intercepted vessels and what would happen to suspected criminals encountered at sea.

Italy will take a lead role in determining the asylum status of those rescued at sea, and to prosecute those suspected of being smugglers.

The resolution for the UNSC was one of the touted “concrete” measures taken by the European Council and the European Commission in a bid to convince electorates at home that EU governments are rolling up their sleeves in trying to stem the flow of migration from Africa into the EU.

The draft resolution could be adopted by the end of the month at the annual meeting of the General Assembly. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is to host a special session on confronting the migrant crisis. Pope Francis is expected to touch on the subject in an address before the General Assembly gets underway.

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