UN Security Council to Vote Today, 8 October, on Resolution Authorising EU to Inspect and Seize Vessels on High Seas Suspected of Engaging in Smuggling or Trafficking of Persons

From What’s in Blue: The Security Council “is expected to vote [on 8 Oct. 2015] on a resolution aimed at disrupting human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants on the high seas off the coast of Libya. …

The draft resolution authorises member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking. Furthermore, the draft authorises member states to seize vessels if there is confirmation that they are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya. These authorisations are for a period of one year from the date of the adoption, and the draft stresses how these are given in exceptional and specific circumstances. …

It seems that the two most divisive issues during negotiations related to references to Chapter VII and the use of force. Several Council members, including Chad, Russia and Venezuela, raised concerns over the implications of having a Chapter VII resolution with a broad mandate. Following bilateral negotiations, the draft to be voted on is under Chapter VII but states that this is specifically to put an end to the recent ‘proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants and trafficking of persons in the Mediterranean sea off the coast of Libya’. …

In relation to the use of force, one of the difficulties was defining the instances in which member states are authorised to use force. The initial draft circulated by the UK included an authorisation to use ‘all necessary measures’ in confronting migrant smugglers or human traffickers. Some Council members wanted further guarantees that this was not a blanket mandate to use force. As a result of the members’ concerns compromise language was added to authorise member states to use ‘all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances’ in confronting them. …

While Council negotiations were put on hold during the high-level debate of the UN General Assembly, amendments were made to the draft in order to secure the consent of the Libyan permanent mission to the UN. …

Some Council members stressed the need to respect international refugee law, as well as the protection of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. The draft underscores that it is not intended to undermine the human rights of individuals or prevent them from seeking protection under international human rights law and international refugee law.

The resolution is expected to provide legal backing for the EU NAVFOR MED’s operation in the high seas (which was renamed Operation Sophia on 28 September). … Council negotiations over a draft resolution authorising such an operation earlier this year (April-May) were put on hold following difficulties getting consent from Libyan authorities to operate in the territorial waters of Libya and its shore. Following the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean this summer, EU Council members decided to narrow the scope of the resolution to vessels operating on the high seas off the coast of Libya. A subsequent phase of the deployment of the operation in the territorial waters and on the shore of Libya is likely to be contingent upon the formation of a government of national accord in Libya.”

Full text of What’s in Blue article here.

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Updated / Conflicting Reports Re: Alleged Leader of Major Libyan People Smuggling Operation Killed in Tripoli: Libyan GNC Government Official (Tripoli) Accuses Italy of Responsibility for Killing

Updated:  there are conflicting reports regarding the incident; see report from Migrant Report that Maskhout is alive.

The Guardian and other media report that Salah al-Maskhout, the alleged leader of a major human smuggling operation, and eight other men, were shot dead in a shootout that occurred on Friday in Zuwara.  According to the Guardian, “[t]he skill with which the hit was carried out – with the killers reportedly firing handguns against the Libyans’ Kalashnikovs – has raised speculation that Maskhout may have been targeted by foreign agents…. The president of Libya’s [GNC] congress [based in Tripoli], Nuri Abu Sahmain, issued a statement following Maskhout’s death in which he blamed Italian special forces for the attack.” The Libya Herald reported that “[t]here have been suggestions that the attackers, who have not been identified, had initially aimed to seize Maskhout. However, the gunmen, none of whom were killed in the shootout, seem to have been professionals.” According to the Guardian, Italian and NATO officials have denied any involvement. Additional details here via RAI News.

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NY Times: Russia Resisting EU Request for Tough U.N. Anti-Smuggling Step

New York Times: “A European bid to obtain Security Council approval for a military operation against boats suspected of human smuggling on the Mediterranean Sea is running into opposition from Russia, which wants to ensure that it cannot be used to justify a broader military intervention, diplomats here said. … [Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that any resolution needs to be focused.] Mr. Churkin said that he wanted to ensure such a resolution did not set a precedent, and that he would not consent to the entire resolution’s being under Chapter VII, which authorizes potential military action….”
Full article here.

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Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov: Russia ready to support Security Council Resolution approving coercive measures by EU only if measures strictly regulated and leave no space for equivocal interpretation

During an interview on Russia’s Channel One “Sunday Time” programme, on 13 September, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said “that 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.” Lavrov was critical of how Western countries had in the past interpreted UN Security Council resolutions and said that the US and European states had in the past engaged in “illegitimate actions in violation of the UN Security Council mandate [which] turned Libya into a ‘blackhole’ now used by terrorists of all kinds.” Lavrov also 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.

Excerpt from the Channel One programme (English translation from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs):

“[***]EU countries have already asked the UN Security Council to help them draft a resolution enabling the navy of EU states to intercept illegal vessels in the Mediterranean carrying migrants who are transferred to Europe illegally. As for coercive measures, many in Europe are talking about not just arresting vessels in the open [high] sea, but also want to operate in territorial waters and onshore (in Libya, for instance), using force if it turns out that a vessel is seized illegally and is not registered. Some even want a Security Council mandate to ‘get rid’ of these vessels, as they say. Do they want to sink these vessels? This issue raises a lot of questions. As we have said time and again, knowing how our Western partners sometimes interpret UN Security Council resolutions, that 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. First, the resolution could concern arresting suspicious vessels in the open [high] sea. When a vessel is flying the flag of a country, its arrest should be coordinated with the country in question. If a vessel bears no identification marks, coordination is not required and it should be stopped and inspected to establish who owns it and what is on board. Second, on top of strictly regulating these actions, it has to be understood what will happen with refugees if they are on board the vessel. The EU has yet to answer these questions. [The EU] also does not have an idea of what to do with the criminals behind this business who are captured on board a vessel. This does not just concern those executing these activities, but also those who engineer the process in some other country. A comprehensive approach is needed, and hasty solutions should be avoided. Of course, in all of those debates, we want to make our partners learn the lesson of their earlier deeds. Everyone should understand from where these migrant waves are coming and why.

… It is not uncommon that attempts to settle political crises are fuelled by momentary political gain without thinking about the implications of an action or initiative on the situation in general. Libya, where the decision was taken to topple a dictator, provides a good example. This has overshadowed all other thoughts and assessments. I spoke with our US and European colleagues who took part in this effort, showing that their thoughtless and illegitimate actions in violation of the UN Security Council mandate turned Libya into a ‘blackhole’ now used by terrorists of all kinds. The country has two parliaments and two governments with their own military. Apart from these structures, there are 35 armed groups that obey neither Tobruk, nor Tripoli. Illegal arms are flowing from Libya to many other countries. According to the UN, these weapons have travelled a long way and are used in a dozen African countries. Libya also serves as the primary transit hub in terms of human trafficking.

The response by my colleagues was telling. They acknowledge the facts and that they committed mistakes. They had the same arguments when Iraq was on the brink of dissolution. It was a mistake for the United States, but they proposed not to delve too much into the past. I strongly believe that unless we learn the lessons of history and do our homework, we will constantly face new crises, resulting in destructive, utterly negative and dangerous consequences, such as the current refugee flows. These issues will be subject to a detailed, substantive discussion in the UN Security Council. [***]”

“[***] Страны Евросоюза уже обратились в Совет Безопасности ООН с просьбой помочь им разработать резолюцию, которая будет санкционировать действия военно-морских сил ЕС в Средиземном море по перехвату нелегальных конвоев с мигрантами, которых контрабандным путем пытаются переправить в Европу. Что касается каких-то принудительных действий, многие в Европе говорят не только об аресте судов в нейтральных водах, но и о действиях в территориальных водах и на сухопутной территории (той же самой Ливии) с применением силы, если будет выявлено, что судно незаконно захвачено или никем не зарегистрировано. Некоторые даже выступают за то, чтобы получить от Совета Безопасности право, как они формулируют,  от этих судов «избавляться». Топить что ли хотят? В этой связи возникает множество вопросов. Мы уже не раз говорили, что отныне и впредь, наученные тем, как наши западные партнеры, порой, умеют интерпретировать резолюции СБ ООН, мы будем готовы санкционировать принудительные меры только если они будут максимально конкретно и очень строго регламентированы в самой резолюции, не допуская какого-либо двойного толкования.  Во-первых, речь могла бы идти об аресте подозрительных судов в открытом море. Если судно идет под флагом какого-то государства, то остановка судна должна быть с ним согласована. Если судно никак не идентифицировано, тогда такого согласия не требуется, и его нужно остановить и проверить, кому оно принадлежит и что везет. Во-вторых, помимо строгой регламентации этих действий, нужно понять, что будет с беженцами, если они будут обнаружены на этом судне. Пока европейская сторона не может дать нам ответы на эти вопросы. Она также не может ответить, что будет с организовавшими этот бизнес преступниками, которые будут захвачены на этих кораблях. Речь идет не только об исполнителях, но и о тех, кто «кукловодит» этим процессом из какой-то другой страны. Здесь нужен комплексный подход и не нужна спешка. Безусловно, во всей этой дискуссии мы хотим, чтобы наши партнеры извлекали уроки из своей прошлой деятельности. Все должны понимать, откуда  и почему берутся все эти волны беженцев.

Мы сегодня говорили о террористической угрозе и неурегулированных конфликтах. Очень часто предпринимаются попытки урегулировать тот или иной кризис ради достижения какой-то сиюминутной политической цели, абсолютно не уделяя внимание, какое влияние та или иная акция будет оказывать на общую ситуацию. Хорошим примером этого служит Ливия, где  решили свергнуть диктатора. Это затмило все остальные мысли и оценки. Я разговаривал с нашими американскими и европейскими коллегами из тех, кто принимал непосредственное участие в этой акции, и показывал, что именно после их абсолютно бездумных и противоправных действий, совершенных в нарушение мандата Совета Безопасности ООН,  Ливия превратилась в «черную дыру», которую сейчас используют террористы всех мастей. Там есть два парламента и два правительства, у каждого из этих политических органов есть свои вооруженные формирования. Но, кроме этих структур есть еще 35 вооруженных отрядов, которые не подчиняются ни Тобруку, ни Триполи. Из Ливии идет огромный поток нелегального оружия в самые разные страны. По оценкам ООН, это оружие давным-давно появилось и применяется более чем в десяти странах Африки. Через Ливию проходит основной поток контрабандной торговли людьми.

Очень показательна реакция моих коллег, которые признают, что это было, и они тогда ошиблись. То же самое нам говорили после того, как Ирак оказался на грани раскола ­ – американцы ошиблись, но предложили не копаться в истории. А я считаю, что если мы не будем извлекать уроки и делать работу над ошибками, то будем постоянно натыкаться на новые кризисы, которые и дальше будут приносить разрушительные, очень негативные и опасные последствия, такие как нынешние потоки беженцев. Мы планируем предметно и подробно обсуждать эти вопросы в СБ ООН. [***]”

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UN Security Council is Again Discussing Resolution to Authorise EU Use of Force Against Migrant Vessels

What’s in Blue and the New York Times report that “it appears that EU [Security] Council members are currently discussing with non-EU P5 members a draft resolution authorising EU NAVFOR Med to intercept boats used by human trafficking networks on the high seas of the Mediterranean.”

NY Times: The resolution “would authorize military action on a specific route on the high seas from the coast of Libya north to Italy. The proposal is a significant step down from what the European leaders originally wanted: the Council’s blessing to conduct military operations along the Libyan coast, on land and water, to seize and disrupt the smugglers. …  According to one Security Council diplomat, 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….”

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Der Spiegel: What Juncker’s quota system would look like.

Der Spiegel: A Continent Adrift: Juncker Proposes Fixes to EU’s Broken Asylum Policies. Graphic: What Juncker’s quota system would look like.

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Statewatch’s EU MED Crisis web page

Statewatch is publishing a dedicated web page, Statewatch Observatory: EU MED crisis – a humanitarian emergency: “This Observatory covers the arrival of migrants and the reactions and failures within the EU (both governmental and within communities) News and Official documents and commentaries (coming soon) Edited by Tony Bunyan.”

Recent postings:

September 2015

+EU: HUMANITARIAN CRISIS: Council of the European Union encouraging MS to use more entry bans (dated 8 September 2015): Draft Council Conclusions on alerts in the SIS for the purpose of refusing entry and stay pursuant to Article 24 of the SIS II Regulation upon a return decision (doc no: 11648-15, pdf). The document notes:

“At its meeting on 25 and 26 June 2015, the European Council concluded that “Member States will fully implement the Return Directive, making full use of all measures it provides to ensure the swift return of irregular migrants; return decisions issued by the Member States will be introduced in the Schengen Information System” [emphasis added]
The Council wants a “new legislative package” but in “short-term” want to use a “soft law” (non-binding, but enabling) set of Council “Conclusions” and:

“The Permanent Representatives Committee is invited to confirm agreement on the draft Council Conclusions as set out in the Annex and to submit them to the Council (Justice and Home Affairs) on 14 September 2015 for adoption as an A point.”
Statewatch notes that: “A Points” are nodded through without debate.

+EU: Council of the European Union: Migration: EU action and state of play (dated 9 September 2015, LIMITE doc no: 11782-15, pdf) including:

(8) those “claiming for asylum have to be immediately channelled into an asylum procedure relying on the EASO support teams. Registration and fingerprinting of migrants have to be closely linked to effective return policies for those who do not need protection. Frontex will help Member States by coordinating the return of irregular migrants.

(9) The deficiencies of the current system of fingerprinting, whereby incoming migrants claiming asylum cannot be forced to give their fingerprints, should be addressed by fully using or eventually amending relevant asylum legislation. In the meantime, the guidelines to facilitate the systematic taking of fingerprints as agreed by Member States should be followed thoroughly, including, if necessary, through the application of Article 15 of the Return Directive on detention.” and notes that Stage 2 of EUNAVFOR is ready and:

“the next phase of the operation, focusing on conducting boarding, search, seizure and diversion on the high seas of vessels suspected of being used for human
smuggling or trafficking”

Statewatch comments: It is not clear that the Council is aware, despite the Stage 1 intelligence-gathering, that only refugees are in the boats crossing into Greece from Turkey and that the motorised rubber-dinghies are destroyed after everyone is safely ashore.



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