UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Friday authorizing member nations to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya suspected of smuggling migrants or engaging in human trafficking from the north African nation for another year.
The German-sponsored resolution also authorizes the seizure of vessels confirmed used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya.
It “condemns all acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking into, through and from the Libyan territory and off the coast of Libya, which undermine further the process of stabilization of Libya and endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.”
Libya, which descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe.
Most migrants make the perilous journey in ill-equipped and unsafe rubber boats. The International Office for Migration estimated in March that the death toll among migrants who tried to cross the Mediterranean had passed the “grim milestone” of 20,000 deaths since 2014.
The European Union established a naval mission, Operation Sophia, in 2015 after tens of thousands of migrants began attempting potentially perilous crossings of the Mediterranean in search of better lives in Europe. But Italy blocked Operation Sophia, claiming that the warships attracted migrants to Europe’s shores. Planes and drones were still used.
In March, the EU launched a new naval mission in the Mediterranean Sea aimed at enforcing the U.N. arms embargo on Libya, dubbed Irini, the Greek word for “peace,” and said it would use aerial, satellite and maritime assets.
The resolution adopted Friday welcomes measures that have been taken since the first resolution on inspecting and seizing vessels engaged in migrant smuggling and human trafficking in 2015 and encourages their continuation. It takes note of the deployment of Operation Irini.
Germany’s deputy U.N. ambassador Gunter Sautter said preventing migrant smuggling and human trafficking is very important and operation Irini will continue, but he noted that the resolution is “a call to action” to the entire international community, not just the EU.
On Friday, the U.N. human rights office delivered a striking warning about the “cycle of violence” facing migrants who flee the “unimaginable horrors” of war-torn Libya trying to reach Europe.
A U.N. monitoring team said migrants are frequently denied speedy rescue and left to drift for days on the perilous Mediterranean Sea route. Many migrants report that the Libyan Coast Guard rammed or shot at their boats, causing vessels to capsize or people to jump in the water in desperation, it said.
The team also cited reports that the coastal authorities of Malta, a common destination for those fleeing Libya by boat, attempted to push migrant boats back toward Libya and toward the Italian island of Lampedusa. In other cases, commercial vessels allegedly refused to rescue migrants, or returned them to Libyan detention centers rife with abuse, it said.
Isabel DeBre contributed to this report from Dubai