The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution authorising the interception and seizure of vessels suspected of involvement in migrant smuggling off the coast of Libya.
IMO secretary-general Koji Sekimizu has welcomed the resolution, which aims to reduce the “continuing maritime tragedies” in the Mediterranean Sea as migrants attempt to reach Europe. The latest International Office of Migration statistics show that 2,988 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean so far this year.
Adopted at a Security Council meeting on October 9, the resolution grants member states the right to inspect vessels on the high seas off the Libyan coast “that they have reasonable grounds to believe have been, are being, or imminently will be used by organised criminal enterprises for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya”. Vessels found to be involved in smuggling can be seized or disposed of in line with international law.
It is repeatedly stated in the resolution that any action under it should be taken with the consent of the vessel’s flag state, and that member states and regional organisations must make good faith efforts to get that consent.
Flag states are requested to review any requests related to their vessels “in a rapid and timely manner”.
UK permanent representative to the UN Matthew Rycroft CBE said in a statement that authorisation would only be used against smugglers, and that migrants would be taken to Europe.
Libya’s representative, Ibrahim Dabbashi, said at the meeting that his government could not extend its authority to the whole country and control its borders, and that addressing the crisis should be done with respect for international law and the sovereignty of states. Mr Dabbashi said that Tripoli and its ports were under militia control and are the departure point of many migrant boats.
“IMO closely monitors the global crisis involving the unsafe transport of mixed migrants by sea and strongly condemns the criminals involved in people smuggling — sending completely unseaworthy ships to sea without the slightest consideration for the safety of those onboard,” said Mr Sekimizu.
“These grossly overloaded, unfit, unsafe vessels should never take to sea at all and should be stopped before they leave port.”
States have been asked to give reports on actions taken under the resolution every three months. The Security Council will review the situation and consider renewing authority beyond the current 12 months.
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