UN authorises operations to disrupt migrant smuggling off Libya’s coast

Photo credit: UNHCR/F. Noy

TMP – 13/10/2017

On 5 October the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) extended the authorisation for states to board, inspect and seize vessels suspected of migrant smuggling or human trafficking off the coast of Libya by another year.

The 15-member Security Council unanimously voted to renew the resolution to allow member states “to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking,” after “good faith efforts” to obtain the consent of the country under whose flag the vessel is sailing.

The UNSC stressed that the resolution “is intended to disrupt the organized criminal enterprises, but not to undermine the human rights of individuals or prevent them from seeking protection under international human rights law and international refugee law.”

The Council also called on EU countries to cooperate with the Libyan government to help the country in building capacity to secure its borders and prevent, investigate and prosecute acts of smuggling of migrants and human trafficking through its territory and in its territorial sea.

The UN mandated EU naval operation, dubbed Operation Sophia, was launched in 2015 to stop migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean, and reports to have intercepted 117 smugglers and seized 482 smuggling ships so far since its launch in 2015. The head of the operation recently reported that compared to last year, this summer saw a 75% drop in the number of migrant launches from Libya.