June 11, 2015 | Quote

Europe’s Migrant Crisis: Is the Answer for UN to Authorize Use of Force?

When the world was confronted with a sudden uptick in piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia seven years ago, the United Nations Security Council authorized the use of force to take on the bandits.

With crucial international-trade shipping lanes threatened, NATO countries and regional partners sent warships to patrol and to confront the pirates. The scourge, while not fully removed, was substantially reduced.

Now the European Union, faced with an unprecedented crisis of migrant smuggling across the Mediterranean Sea, is considering similar extraordinary measures to address its migrant problem. The Europeans are seeking a use-of-force authorization from the Security Council that would give EU countries the sanction to destroy the boats that smugglers are using to ferry thousands of Syrians and sub-Saharan Africans to southern Europe. EU officials have said only identified smuggling vessels with no passengers on them would be targeted.

UN officials and some regional experts say the real answer is for a legitimate Libyan government to reestablish authority over Libyan ports and territorial waters. But no one sees that happening soon.

“Libya is the reason this is an issue – full stop,” says dr. Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at Washington’s Foundation for Defense of Democracies, with expertise in both North Africa and Somalia.

Just as it was Somalia’s decline into a failed state that allowed pirates to flourish off its coast, Libya’s similar deterioration has opened up the country’s ports and waters to the high-profit business of human trafficking, Gartenstein-Ross says.

“The ideal of course is to fortify Libya’s borders, but the chance of that at the moment is zero, and the reality is the smugglers are operating unchecked,” he says. The EU might prefer to work with a Libyan government, “but with a severe civil war raging, that is not an option,” he adds. “The two major factions are much more dedicated to fighting each other than to doing anything about the migrant crisis.”


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