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France wants UN support to destroy migrant boats

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Amnesty International activists and migrants protest before a meeting of the European Council on Mediterranean migrants crisis in Brussels, on April 23, 2015. Photo: AFP
08:39 CEST+02:00
France will go to the UN to try to get backing for the EU to destroy boats used by migrant traffickers in the Mediterranean. Paris also joined Berlin and London in pledging more ships and aircraft after an emergency summit in Brussels.

French President Francois Hollande said Thursday he will seek a UN resolution authorising the EU to destroy boats used by traffickers to send thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe.

"We will look at all the options for seeking out and destroying these boats... that can only be done under a UN resolution (on which) France will take the initiative with others," Hollande said after an emergency EU summit on the recent upsurge in migrants risking their lives to reach European shores.

European leaders had gathered in Brussels to discuss new strategies in the wake of the latest disaster on Sunday, in which hundreds of migrants drowned when their boat capsized on the way from Libya to Italy.

The high pressure meeting in Brussels came as the EU comes under fire for failing to do enough to protect the migrants, hundreds of whom have died in recent days, as they took the perilous journey to Europe across the Mediterranean.

EU leaders pledgedto triple the funding for the search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

Following the summit Britain, France and Germany said they would offer ships and aircraft for the maritime search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean sea.

The UK will send HMS Bulwark to the area,while Germany offered one frigate and 10 ships.

France is believed to have committed a plane for a fortnight in September and a patrol boat for the month of November.

Much of the political rhetoric in recent days has focused on the people smugglers operating along the North African coastline, described by Italian Prime Minister Mateo Renzi as "the slave traders of the 21st century".

EU leaders have decided to draw up plans to hit the people smuggling networks and destroy the boats they use to get migrants across the sea.

Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign and security policy coordinator, was charged with drawing up a military mission blueprint, but it could take months to finalize. 

But experts see any attempt to tackle the problem militarily as doomed to fail.

"This problem is totally unsolvable with military means," Alain Coldefy, a retired French admiral, told AFP.

"Politicians have on several occasions asked me the question of what could be done to stop this trafficking by force, and the response is simple: nothing," he said.

"Once these boats loaded with migrants have left Libyan waters, we can only apply international rules, which means rescuing people."

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Marines are not trained or equipped to launch operations against these kind of boats, Coldefy added. Nor do they have an option of firing on them.

Aid organizations across Europe have heavily criticized the EU in recent weeks of not acting out of fear of the "pull effect" and the worry that thousands more migrants would attempt to get to Europe if the route became safer.

Medecins du Monde has heavily criticized France and other EU countries for having a policy of not improving the welcome and protection offered to asylum seekers out of fear that it will simply encourage more to come.

“This argument is dead now. We can’t accept it anymore," Jean-François Corty told The Local.

“These people will try anything to get to Europe and the government needs to take measures that correspond to this reality and to protect these people,” he added.

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