Europe’s main concern in confronting the Mediterranean migrant crisis is to save lives, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the UN Security Council on Monday.
Mogherini was addressing the 15-member council to seek support for a controversial European Union plan that provides for military action to stem the tide of refugees making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.
“Our first priority is to save lives and prevent further loss of lives at sea,” Mogherini told the council.
But Europe’s chief diplomat said the migrant crisis “is not only a humanitarian emergency but also a security crisis since smuggling networks are linked to and finance terrorist activities.”
With more than 1,800 dead this year alone, 2015 is shaping up as the deadliest ever for refugees seeking to reach Europe via the Mediterranean.
Describing the migrant flow as an “unprecedented situation,” Mogherini said: “We need an exceptional response.”
The EU plan would involve military action to destroy the boats used by migrant smugglers who have seized on the chaos in Libya to set up operations.
Security Council members Britain, France, Lithuania and Spain are working with Italy on a draft resolution that would endorse the EU migrant crisis plan.
An early draft allows for the “use of all necessary means to seize and dispose of the vessels,” including their destruction or rending them inoperable, diplomats said.
Russia has however poured cold water over the proposal to destroy vessels, arguing that smugglers lease ships from owners who are often unaware of the scheme.
“It’s just going too far,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said last week.
The resolution would be drafted under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which allows the use of force, and would give an EU maritime force the right to act in Libyan territorial waters — if authorities there give their consent.
Human rights and aid organizations have also come out against military action, arguing that attention should focus instead on broadening legal avenues for migrants to reach Europe.
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