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Migration & Refugees

EU to Focus on Human Smuggling Amid Mediterranean Crisis

UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2015 (IPS) - Speaking at the U.N. Security Council, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, called on the international community to take urgent steps to end the Mediterranean crisis and dismantle the human smuggling rings that facilitate it.

”The EU is united and we will work, but we cannot work alone. We need to share and act together, as it’s a EU responsibility and a global responsibility,” said Mogherini

In 2014, 3,300 migrants died while fleeing their countries of origin to enter Europe. Three people out of four perished in the Mediterranean Sea, and 2015 looks set to be even worse, added Mogherini.

According to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) about 60,000 men, women and children have crossed the Mediterranean this year, and 1,800 of them have tragically died during the journey.

“Saving lives and preventing the loss of lives at sea is a top responsibility that we all share, not only as Europeans but globally,” Mogherini said at the Council briefing, adding that an exceptional situation requires an immediate strategy to solve the crisis.

The Mediterranean problem is a structural problem rooted in poverty, increasing inequality, conflicts and human rights violations in African and Middle Eastern countries and beyond, including the situation in Syria, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, said the European High Representative.

Also speaking at the Council was Antonio Tete, Permanent Representative Observer of the African Union to the U.N., who underlined that smuggling of migrants has emerged due to several factors that lead people in many African countries to escape from abject poverty, climate change, water scarcity, insufficient progress in employment and rising inequality.

Since April, the EU has been collaborating with the African Union in countries such as Tunisia, Niger, Mali, Sudan, but also with Egypt given the situation in Syria and Iraq, in order to strengthen cooperation and dialogue on a regional and international level.

“This humanitarian emergency is also a security crisis, since smuggling networks are linked to finance and terrorist activities, which contributes to instability in a region that is already unstable enough,” Mogherini said.

If the international community fails to frame its response to the crisis, it will be a “moral failure,” said Peter Sutherland, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration.

On May 13, the European Commission will present a new agenda on migration, drafted by member countries in April.

The EU is also calling for a U.N. resolution in order to disrupt smugglers’ networks and business by destroying vessels before their use, in accordance with international law.

On May 18, EU member states will discuss the possibility of launching a naval operation, in the framework of the EU common security and defence policy, Mogherini said.

“But we want to work with the U.N. Security Council and with the UNHCR […] we need a (global) partnership if we want to end this tragedy,” she said.

A military operation in the Mediterranean was rejected by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his last visit to Italy, who called it “potentially dangerous for migrants and local fishermen.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp


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