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EU Ministers Approve Military Action on the Mediterranean

© REUTERS / MOAS/Jason Florio/Handout via ReutersMigrants crowd the deck of their wooden boat off the coast of Libya May 14, 2015
Migrants crowd the deck of their wooden boat off the coast of Libya May 14, 2015 - Sputnik International
EU leaders are still at logger heads over asylum seeker quotas – but agree on the need for a tougher response to the refugee crisis. "Conditions have been met", according to a European diplomat, for EU member states to use military force against people smugglers' boats on the Mediterranean Sea.

Phase one of the military plan to gather intelligence began in July. According to AFP, phase two of the military action has now been approved which would include seizing and destroying vessels used to transport people out of Libya and onto Europe – but only on international waters. 

Radars and planes would be deployed to spot smuggler’s ships then as part of the military offensive, the smugglers would be confronted, their vessels boarded, refugees and migrants removed, the crew arrested and the boat destroyed.

A third military phase, which has been touted by EU leaders, includes intercepting boats on Libyan waters — but this step requires a UN Security Council resolution. Six European Union countries have committed to taking military steps but Libya’s UN ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi has said he opposes the plans.

Federica Mogherini, EU foreign and security policy coordinator, has called for the UN to pass a resolution allowing European naval forces into Libyan waters – but UN Secretary General Ban Qi Moon has already explained that "there was no military solution to migrants crossing the Mediterranean".

The EU NavFor Med has one Italian ship, one British and two German but sources told AFP that more vessels would be needed to the second phase of military action that is expected to begin next month. AFP also reports that the EU has previously taken part in peacekeeping and civilian emergency missions, including anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa. 

The military plan, according to Peter Roberts, sea and maritime defense expert at the military think tank Royal United Services Institute, was based on an previous anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden.

Author of 'Five Reasons Why Militarizing the EU Migration Plan Will Not Work', Roberts points out that "piracy poses a threat to security, peace and good order… As such, the bases for action (Chapter 7 of the UN Charter) could be fairly implemented".

"Migration does not pose such threats and it would be a struggle for any Western institution to make that case that it did…the UN therefore has a problem in finding a legal basis for the proposed EU plan."

"Migrants in boats are symptoms not causes of the problem," says Roberts who thinks that destroying Libyan fishing boats is "counterproductive" because it also destroys an alternative business model to make a living by fishing. 

A Belgian nav.y sailor passes life vests to migrants sitting in a rubber boat as they approach the Belgian Navy Vessel Godetia during a search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean Eea off the Libyan coasts, Tuesday, June 23, 2015 - Sputnik International
New European Fences 'Push Migrants Into Arms of Smugglers'

In a recent interview Peter Roberts told Sputnik that "a hard-line military activity to prevent migration into Europe across the Mediterranean could work: but it would involve killing migrants and enforced repatriation. There does not appear to be sufficient political appetite for this".

EU leaders might agree on a tougher response to the migrant crisis but they have still failed on a humanitarian response to take part in a quota system to re-distribute 160,000 asylum seekers already on European soil – the subject of today’s interior ministers meeting in Brussels.

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