EU urges UN to back effort to save migrant lives

Updated 12 May 2015

EU urges UN to back effort to save migrant lives

United Nations, United States: EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Monday appealed for international backing for Europe’s efforts to confront the Mediterranean migrant crisis and save lives.
Mogherini spoke at the UN Security Council as it prepares to endorse a controversial European Union plan that provides for military action to stem the tide of refugees making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.
“Our first priority is to save lives and prevent further loss of lives at sea,” Mogherini told the 15-member council.
“We cannot do it alone. This has to be a common global effort,” she said.
“That is why we count on your support to save lives and dismantle criminal organizations that are exploiting people’s desperation.”
With more than 1,800 dead this year alone, 2015 is shaping up as the deadliest ever for refugees seeking to reach Europe through the Mediterranean.
Describing the migrant flow as an “unprecedented situation,” Mogherini said: “We need an exceptional response.”
Europe’s chief diplomat described the migrant crisis as “not only a humanitarian emergency but also a security crisis” involving smugglers who have seized on the chaos in Libya to set up operations.
The most controversial component of the EU plan would involve military action to destroy the boats used by migrant smugglers.
Security Council members Britain, France, Lithuania and Spain are working with Italy on a draft resolution that would allow for the “use of all necessary means to seize and dispose of the vessels, including the destruction and rendering inoperable and unusable,” diplomats said.
Russia has, however, poured cold water over the proposal to destroy vessels, arguing that smugglers rent boats from owners who are often unaware of the scheme.
“It’s just going too far,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said last week.
The resolution would be drafted under Chapter 7 of the UN charter which allows the use of force and would give an EU maritime force the right to act in Libyan territorial waters.
Libya has expressed reservations, however, and it remains an open question whether the rival governments ruling the country would give their consent.
In addressing the council, Mogherini offered assurances that a naval force would not seek to undermine Libya’s stability.
“We don’t and we won’t act against anyone but in partnership with all,” she said.
Human rights and aid organizations have also come out against military action, arguing that attention should focus instead on broadening legal avenues for migrants to reach Europe.
At a summit last month, EU leaders agreed they had to act in face of the mounting death toll, committing more money for search and rescue missions and to extend their scope.
They also tasked Mogherini with drawing up a list of military options, including action to capture and destroy the smugglers’ vessels.
The migrant issue is hugely sensitive as the EU agonizes over how best to respond, with euroskeptic and nationalist parties capitalizing on public unease over increased immigration.
On Wednesday, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker is due to present a new migration policy plan which includes a provision that distributes the migrant burden more fairly across the bloc.
Diplomatic sources said Juncker may also set at 20,000 an EU-wide quota for refugees despite Britain insisting this should be done only on a voluntary basis.
For some European governments, taking in more people only makes the problem worse, arguing that it attracts other migrants into risking their lives on the risky Mediterranean crossing.
“Juncker wants a required quota of refugees but this is practically seen as a declaration of war” by certain member states, one top European official said.
Germany, however, has argued for a humanitarian response to the disaster by spreading the refugees more fairly among member states.
In terms of the military response, diplomatic sources say current thinking would allow EU navies to board unflagged vessels in international waters in the Mediterranean to stop people traffickers, but they would not intervene before they left the Libyan coast, as the summit had suggested.
The Europeans believe they can act without a UN mandate against ships that fly no flag, which enjoy less protection under the law of the sea. But they would need the UN’s approval to go into Libyan territorial waters.


Tear gas fired as Hong Kong riot police, protesters clash

Updated 24 August 2019

Tear gas fired as Hong Kong riot police, protesters clash

  • The demonstrators retaliated with a barrage of bottles and bamboo poles
  • Tear gas and pepper spray was fired to disperse protesters

HONG KONG: Riot police and protesters clashed Saturday afternoon as a stand-off outside a police station descended into violence.
Officers charged with batons out, detaining at least one protester.
The demonstrators retaliated with a barrage of bottles and bamboo poles, as tear gas and pepper spray was fired to disperse them.