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. As survivors laid bare the full horror of last weekend’s catastrophic shipwreck near Libya, EU officials were paving the way for the approval of unprecedented action to ease their plight. AFP reported the draft statement stated leaders will commit to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers.”
[The EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini] is invited to immediately begin preparations for a possible security and defence policy operation to this effect, in accordance with international law.
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.