From the European Council web site: “In a joint session, foreign and defence ministers will take stock of action to tackle migration issues. They will also discuss efforts to capture and destroy the vessels of human traffickers before they are used. In addition, ministers will debate the strategic review, an ongoing analysis of the EU’s security environment, and discuss security challenges in the EU’s neighbourhood. They will also prepare the security and defence part of the June European Council.”
Tag Archives: Italy
Two German naval ships, the Hessen and the Berlin, have been participating in Mediterranean rescue operations since 5 May and have reportedly destroyed five migrant boats (four inflatable and one wooden) after rescue operations were completed and migrants removed from the boats. The boats are destroyed because they might pose a navigational hazard to other vessels and might also be mistaken for a boat in distress. (Wir müssen die Boote zerstören, weil sie auf dem offenen Meer ein Schifffahrtshindernis für andere Boote darstellen. Zum anderen könnte es sein, dass wir ein leeres Boot aus der Luft irrtümlich als ein in Seenot befindliches Boot wahrnehmen und hinfahren, um es zu retten. Das kann wertvolle Zeit kosten, die uns bei der Rettung von besetzten Booten dann verloren geht.)
As I have noted before, there are situations such as these where the destruction of a migrant boat may be perfectly legal and appropriate. Assuming reasonable measures can be taken to avoid or minimize environmental damage, the destruction in international waters of an unflagged and unseaworthy vessel would seem to be legal.
In a statement IOM generally welcomed the European Commission’s proposals on migration. “IOM … supports the renewed focus on disrupting criminal smuggling networks, but has serious concerns about proposals to ‘systematically identify, capture and destroy vessels used by smugglers,’ through EU Common Security and Defense (CSDP) operations. While recognizing the need for a powerful demonstration of the EU’s determination to act, IOM sees inherent risk that military actions, however laudable, could further endanger migrant lives.”
Peter Sutherland, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration and Development in a statement welcomed the European Commission’s “European Agenda on Migration” but “urge[d] [EU] Member States not to put any refugees or migrants in the line of fire, and to design any [anti-smuggling] operation in complete conformity with international law.” Sutherland urged the EU to take steps to ensure that Frontex Operations Triton and Poseidon “are at least equal in effect to Mare Nostrum” and “to make search-and-rescue the top priority…”
From today’s Guardian: “European plans for a military campaign to smash the migrant smuggling networks operating out of Libya include options for ground forces on Libyan territory. The 19-page strategy paper for the mission, obtained by the Guardian, focuses on an air and naval campaign in the Mediterranean and in Libyan territorial waters, subject to United Nations blessing. But it adds that ground operations in Libya may also be needed to destroy the smugglers’ vessels and assets, such as fuel dumps. … [The strategy paper] which is expected to be endorsed by European Union foreign ministers on Monday [states that] ‘[t]he operation would require a broad range of air, maritime and land capabilities. These could include: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; boarding teams; patrol units (air and maritime); amphibious assets; destruction air, land and sea, including special forces units.’ … [The strategy paper states that operations] could include ‘action along the coast, in harbour or at anchor of smugglers assets and vessels before their use’…. The planning document admits that the campaign could result in innocent people being killed: ‘Boarding operations against smugglers in the presence of migrants has a high risk of collateral damage including the loss of life’.”
See full article here.
Russia May Agree to Security Council Resolution Authorising “Seizing and Arresting” Smuggler Boats and Assets – Security Council Vote Could Happen at Any Time
Politico EU reports that “Russia’s Ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told POLITICO the ‘EU’s proposals of destroying vessels would definitely go too far for Russia,’ but did not oppose the other key element of [HRVP Federica] Mogherini’s proposal. ‘In our opinion, seizing and arresting vessels and assets of smugglers would be an adequate measure to undermine their illegal “business model” in Libya,’ he said. Chizhov confirmed that ‘Russia is ready to work with the EU and its member states with the aim of solving the migration crisis in the Mediterranean, including on a possible UNSC resolution.’”
Politico EU suggests that “Mogherini or other EU officials may carefully shift emphasis from the boat destruction plan to the interruption of the trafficker networks” and reports that “[a] vote on a UN resolution could happen anytime in coming weeks — even before next Monday would be possible…”
See full article here.
PS – Of interest to anyone following the EU, check out Politico EU’s Brussels Playbook – a daily early morning summary of EU news and events in Brussels.
HR/VP Mogherini’s remarks earlier today to the Security Council contained very few details on the EU proposal to engage in “systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers in accordance with international law.” Here is one excerpt from her remarks:
“[M]y presence here at the Security Council today is so important for us. We have in these weeks prepared for a possible naval operation in the framework of the European Union Common Security and Defence Policy. The mandate of this operation is currently being elaborated with the EU Member States in Brussels, and will be discussed by the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, in a week from now, in exactly a week from now on 18 May, with a possibility of taking decisions, the first decisions already. We want to work with the United Nations, in particular with the UNSC. …”
Full text here.
UN Security Council, 11 May, Briefing and Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Smuggling of Migrants in the Mediterranean
Full text from “What’s in Blue” (published by Security Council Report):
“On Monday (11 May) the [Security] Council will receive a briefing by Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on the EU response to the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. After the briefing, Council members are expected to hold an informal interactive dialogue with her. At the request of Chad, the permanent observer of the AU to the UN, Ambassador Tete António, will also participate in these meetings.
This briefing comes after the 19 April incident in which more than 700 migrants drowned when the overcrowded boat on which they were traveling sank near Libya. According to the [International] Organization for Migration, more than 1,700 migrants have drowned since the beginning of January in the Mediterranean Sea. In a 21 April press statement, Council members expressed grave concern at the smuggling of migrants off the coast of Libya, highlighting the implications for regional stability. On 22 April, at the request of the UK, Council members exchanged views on this issue under ‘any other business”’
Mogherini is expected to brief Council members on the integrated strategy by the EU to address the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. The strategy includes the provision of bilateral development assistance to countries on the southern and eastern Mediterranean basin—as well as to countries of origin and transit—while tripling the financial resources available to operations Triton and Poseidon, currently existing in the territorial waters of EU member states. In a 20 April joint meeting of EU foreign and interior Ministers, chaired by Mogherini, the Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos of Greece presented a plan to respond to migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean, which would entail a systematic effort to capture and destroy vessels used by the smugglers, inspired by the EU Atalanta Operation deployed to fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia. The plan was endorsed in a 23 April meeting of the EU Council, and negotiations are ongoing at the EU to agree on the Crisis Management Concept, which is the basis for operational planning and conduct of any EU mission.
Since that meeting, discussions among EU members of the Council (France, Lithuania, Spain, and the UK) and Italy on a draft resolution apparently authorising such an operation have been ongoing. It seems some permanent members have been able to provide inputs. It appears the idea is for a Chapter VII resolution that will authorise an EU operation to use all necessary measures to inspect, seize and dispose of vessels when there are grounds to believe that they are participating in the smuggling of migrants. The draft may be circulated to the wider membership of the Council in the coming days.
Although most Council members have not seen the draft text, they are aware of some of its elements and are expected to seek information that might feed into any negotiations of the draft. Council members are likely to want to know more about the expected geographical scope of the resolution (whether this includes the high seas, the territorial waters of Libya or even its shore) and whether the EU is seeking Libya’s consent. In this context, Council members might inquire about Mogherini’s recent conversations in Tunisia with Libyan political actors, and the potential impact of such an operation on the political process. Some Council members might be worried that asking for the consent of the Tobruk-based government could negatively impact the talks, which are aimed at the formation of a government of national unity.
Some Council members may echo concerns regarding the protection of human rights and international refugee law that have been raised by the Secretary-General as well as the UN High Commissioners for Human Rights and Refugees. In particular, they might ask about the fate of the migrants taken into custody, and note the importance of respecting the guarantees of international law, notably the 1951 Refugee Convention and the principle of non-refoulement. When the programme of work was adopted, a briefing by the High Commissioner for Refugees, along with the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, was being considered for some point in May. Some Council members may have expected these briefings to happen before engaging in discussions about the regional responses to the smuggling of migrants; however, at press time, it was unclear if and when they will be held.
In the past, it has been difficult to get agreement on resolutions authorising the interception of vessels, whether in the context of the implementation of sanctions or counter-piracy measures. Some Council members feel strongly about not contravening the freedom of navigation principle codified in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. As such, they have tended to focus their discussions in the past on issues such as the procedures to authorise the interdiction, whether the consent of the flag state is required, and where the interdiction is authorised to happen.”
The NY Times in an editorial on Sunday called upon the UN Security Council to reject the EU request for a resolution authorising military intervention against smugglers in Libya:
“Military intervention would be a grave mistake. … It is, in fact, a cynical strategy, born of Europe’s panic over a tide of foreign migrants. … Destroying all the boats would condemn migrants to exile. A far better (and obvious) way to put the smugglers out of business is to make migration from Libya to Europe safe and legal. … The Security Council should tell [Federica Mogherini] that no military intervention is needed — just compassion and common sense.”
UN Security Council Draft Resolution on Use of Force in Libya to Call for “Use of All Means to Destroy the Business Model of the Traffickers”
The Guardian reports that the UK has prepared a draft UN Security Council resolution on behalf of the EU “that is believed to call for the ‘use of all means to destroy the business model of the traffickers’.” According to the Guardian the resolution would authorise the use of military force in Libyan territorial waters; the military force “would come under Italian command, have the participation of around 10 EU countries, including Britain, France, Spain, and Italy…” EU naval vessels would be authorised to enter into Libyan territorial waters and helicopter gunships would be used “to ‘neutralise’ identified traffickers’ ships.”
The Security Council meets tomorrow, Monday, 11 May, to consider the situation in the Mediterranean and will receive a briefing from HRVP Federica Mogherini. The Libyan government in Tobruk has said it opposes any such resolution.
An Italian prosecutor on Friday said that “more than 700, maybe 800” bodies are contained within the wreckage of the migrant boat that sank 85 miles off the coast of Libya on 18 April. The boat has been located by the Italian Navy and an effort may be made to recover the bodies. It is at a depth of 375 metres. Fewer than 30 people were rescued at the time of the accident and only 24 bodies have been recovered so far.
Italy is hosting on 8 May a high level meeting of European naval forces. In response to questions from AFP about calls for a resumption of push backs in the Mediterranean, Admiral Marzano said: “There are several countries that apply a policy of expulsion, even by force of arms, others apply the international right to rescue. I am a sailor who has spent 20 years on boats. If I find a boat adrift, I’m sorry but I don’t turn away. I intervene to help people at sea. I don’t know if this reflects my Italian culture but I do know it is international law. A vessel in difficulty, whether it is a boat full of migrants or a merchant ship, has to be assisted.”
See also ANSA: Amm.Marzano, Non mi volterò mai dall’altra parte.
The UN Security Council will meet on Monday, 11 May, to consider the situation in the Mediterranean. HRVP Federica Mogherini will brief the Security Council. Italy has circulated a draft resolution among European members of the Security Council. ANSA reports that the European members of the UN Security Council have reached an agreement and are “very close” to being able to circulate a draft resolution. Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the goal is to get “a legal framework” to “perform individual operations against traffickers.” Gazzetta Del Sud reports that “European sources said next Monday’s Security Council meeting will be a ‘first step’ to assess what kind of mandate might be needed for European operations against migrant traffickers. It is not likely that meeting will come up with a resolution, the sources said. European High Foreign Representative Federica Mogherini will present a May 18 council of EU foreign ministers with various security and defense options.” Russia has already said that it would veto a resolution authorising military strikes, but that it might consider supporting “a more restricted mandate for any EU military mission, which could involve a search and rescue role alongside powers to stop and seize smugglers’ boats at sea.”
Reuters and other news agencies report that rescued survivors arriving today in Sicily told Save the Children that about 40 persons died – other survivors reported that “lots” of people died – after “dozens of people fell into the sea when they saw the merchant ship approach” their overloaded rubber dinghy. The migrant boat left Libya and was rescued on Sunday south of Sicily.
Another example of why ships, commercial and military, may sometimes avoid rescuing migrant boats: the Guardian reported yesterday that the UK has kept the HMS Bulwark at anchor in Sicily “amid a diplomatic spat over where rescued people should be disembarked and processed. … Involvement was held up by deliberations between the Italian and British foreign ministries. Britain, which agreed to send the ship after emergency EU talks last month, sought guarantees that the migrants rescued by HMS Bulwark could be taken to Italian ports once they are saved from the high seas.”