Migrant crisis: EU ministers to establish naval force to destroy trafficker boats

Around 1,800 people have died attempting to reach mainland Europe this year

Kashmira Gander
Monday 18 May 2015 17:39 BST

European Union foreign and defence ministers have agreed on plans to form a naval force to tackle people-traffickers who send boats filled with desperate migrants from Libya to mainland Europe.

Politicians hope the operation - which will be run by an Italian admiral in Rome - will start next month, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said according to BBC News.

Ms Mogherini was tasked with drawing up the plans to "identify, capture and destroy" potential people-trafficking boats before they can be loaded with people fleeing from conflict in Africa.

The naval operation will involve gathering intelligence on smugglers; locating and inspecting boats; and destroying the vessels, BBC News reported.

"It is not so much the destruction of the boats but the destruction of the business models of the (smugglers') networks themselves," Ms Mogherini said.

The EU will now seek agreement from the Libyan authorities as well as a resolution from the UN Security Council.

Around 1,800 migrants have died this year attempting the perilous crossing from North Africa so far this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

However, the plan to destroy traffickers' boats has been met with some criticism, with former navy chief Admiral Lord West warning that traffickers could find other routes to Europe.

"It would be difficult but it's certainly achievable and I believe that a close blockade of the Libyan coast in these territorial seas is feasible and not too high risk and I think we could stop then the flow of people trying to get out into the Mediterranean. That will save lives and it will dry up the funding to these dreadful people-smugglers," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"And I think within a matter of weeks they would be looking for other ways of achieving it, which of course they will always try and do that," he added.

He instead advised that Britain should "come to some agreement with [leaders in Libya] that we can send boats back into a harbour, and some way of disabling them, or disable them at sea and send the people back into shore."

Additional reporting by PA

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