Barbie Latza Nadeau writes: Human smugglers in Libya have moved more than 38,000 people across the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of 2015, killing as many as 2,000 along the way. But a new plan by the European Union to target smugglers’ vessels may soon make the journey even deadlier.
Desperate times may call for desperate measures, and the EU’s plan to systematically “identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers” is case in point. The plan was hatched in emergency talks after as many as 950 migrants died on April 18, fueling promises by EU leaders to “smash the gangs” of traffickers that operate unchecked in Libya.
The plan was presented to the United Nations Security Council in New York on Monday by Federica Mogherini, an Italian who is the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy. In asking the U.N. Security Council to bless military action against the Libyan-based smuggler rings, she promised that the EU would take full responsibility for “identifying trafficking vessels for destruction before they are filled with migrants.”
But the reality is that such a tactic could become a deadly game of Russian roulette, since the traffickers don’t exactly play by the rules.
At face value, the idea itself could be considered noble—stop the merchants of death by destroying their lethal weapons, in this case unsafe fishing vessels that are packed over capacity with desperate migrants. But everyone from the head of the United Nations to those welcoming migrants on the shores of Italy warn that just one mistake will stain Europe’s hands with the blood of every dead migrant officials say they are trying to save.
In a far-reaching exposé from the epicenter of the trafficking ring in Zuwara, Libya, the Guardian pinpointed the biggest problem with destroying smuggler vessels. “Smuggling boats start life as fishing trawlers. The moment of transition from the latter to the former is informal and almost imperceptible to outsiders,” the author writes after interviewing several smugglers. [Continue reading…]