LIBYA (Next Media) – As the EU struggles to cope with the surge in illegal immigrants arriving from conflict-stricken Libya, EU ministers have approved an operation that will establish a military force to combat human smuggling across the Mediterranean Sea.
In the Italy-led operation, the EU will deploy surveillance aircraft and warships to the Mediterranean Sea for intelligence gathering and to isolate smugglers’ vessels. The initial phase of the operation involves intelligence gathering only, and will be launched as early as June 25.
The EU still needs to secure Libya’s and the United Nations Security Council’s permission to operate near the Libyan coast and in international waters. If the U.N. passes a resolution supporting the military operation, the EU will be able to board, inspect and dispose of suspected smugglers vessels in international waters.
Refugee rights group fear that a shortage of smugglers’ vessels will lead to more migrants being packed into the remaining boats and even more unsafe conditions.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 1,800 migrants have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea this year.
SOURCES: The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, BBC