EU naval mission ready to shoot at migrant traffickers

2015-10-23 15:51
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Rome - The European Union naval operation against migrant trafficking in the Mediterranean is ready to shoot at smugglers' boats, its commander said in an interview on Friday.

The mission, known as EUNAVFOR MED, entered its operational phase this month following the launch in June. It can intercept, search, seize and destroy vessels found in high seas and suspected of being used to smuggle migrants.

Mission commander, Italian Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino, was asked by Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper if EU forces were also ready to open fire.

"Of course," he replied, with an important qualifier: "The mission can require the use of force, but only if migrants are not endangered."

Credendino said EUNAVFOR MED has so far seized 20 wooden boats used by smugglers. He insisted such actions were putting real pressure on the traffickers, as there are no shipbuilding capabilities in Libya to replace seized vessels.

Smugglers offer their services on Facebook "like a travel agency," charging €80 000 per journey by wooden boat, and €67 000 when they use smaller dinghies, the admiral said.

He added that the proceeds, laundered in London, New York and Sweden, sometimes end up in the hands of the so-called Islamic State terrorist militia, despite the vast majority of trafficking groups being based in the western Libyan region of Tripolitania, which is not controlled by the group.

Credendino warned that the EU operation would "cure the symptom, not the cause," as long as countries in Africa and the Middle East remained plagued by "famine and war, terrorism and illiteracy."

On Thursday, the Italian Navy conducted an at-sea raid on a fishing boat allegedly involved in Mediterranean migrant trafficking. The marines then escorted to the Italian mainland the 17 people found aboard.

Nearly 690 000 people fleeing war and misery have arrived in Europe by sea this year, according to the Swiss-based International Organisation for Migrants, which monitors migrant arrivals via the Mediterranean to Europe. Over 3 000 perished or were missing after attempting the journey.

Read more on:    europe  |  migrants

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