EU approves plan to target migrant traffickers
Details remain unclear as member states consider their options
The European Union agreed a naval mission on Monday to target gangs smuggling migrants from Libya but parts of a broader plan to deal with the influx began to unravel in a row over national quotas for housing asylum seekers.
“This is just the beginning. Now the planning starts,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said of the naval mission, adding that the operation could start next month.
Details remain unclear as member states consider their options.
“There is a clear sense of urgency,” Mogherini said of the migrants, most of whom make for her native Italy. “As summer comes, more people are travelling.”
The plans come after a series of shipwrecks that killed hundreds of migrants making the perilous voyage from North Africa.
The U.N. estimates that around 60,000 migrants have already attempted to get across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe this year.
Over 1,800 people are feared to have died in the crossing in overcrowded and unsafe boats since the beginning of 2015 – a 20-fold increase over the same period in 2014, according to the BBC.
On Sunday, a Libyan official told the BBC that ISIS militants are being smuggled into Europe across the Mediterranean by smugglers.
Libyan government official Abdul Basit Haroun said that smugglers were hiding ISIS militants aboard their vessels crammed with migrants.
He claimed this information was from conversations he had with boat owners in parts of North Africa which are controlled by the militants.
He added that ISIS was allowing the smugglers to continue their operations in exchange for a 50 percent share of their revenue.
In early 2015, the EU’s border control agency had warned that it was “possible” for foreign fighters to be using illegal migration in the Mediterranean to get into Europe.
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