EU leaders gathering in Brussels on Thursday will consider launching a military operation against human traffickers in Libya in the biggest effort yet to halt the deadly flow of refugees trying to reach Europe by sea. They had decided last year to halt the rescue of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean will reverse their decision at a summit hastily convened after nearly 2,000 people died at sea. The leaders are likely to agree in Brussels to double the cash and equipment available to two EU border patrol missions in the Mediterranean, a senior EU diplomat said.
EU heads of state have the responsibility of the region’s human rights credibility on their shoulders and they need to take firm action to save lives.
Iverna McGowan, head of rights group Amnesty International’s Brussels office
The EU has struggled for years to forge an effective joint strategy to handle migrants fleeing war and turmoil in Africa and the Middle East. The peak migration season of late spring and summer has barely begun, with international organisations estimating tens of thousands of African and Asian migrants likely to attempt the journey per month, mostly from Libya. Last year the death toll eventually reached 3,200. Many EU countries still believe search and rescue operations alone will not solve the problem, and more must be done to fight traffickers, who have taken advantage of lawlessness in Libya to set up operations that spirited 170,000 migrants across the sea last year.