The British government is leading a European Union (EU) plan to stop migrants coming across the Mediterranean by launching military strikes.
EU ministers met in Brussels on Monday of last week to discuss the plan. The EU was then set to send a resolution to the United Nations Security Council—drafted by Britain—asking for permission to operate in Libya’s territorial waters.
The resolution is said to ask for “use of all means to destroy the business model of the traffickers”.
British flagship HMS Bulwark, which has temporarily been assigned to rescuing refugees would use its helicopter gunships to “neutralise” ships used by traffickers.
It also says, “A presence ashore might be envisaged if agreement was reached with relevant authorities.” Who the relevant authorities are is not clear as Tripoli, the port from which most migrants leave, is not under the control of the nominal Libyan government.
A leaked EU document stated, “The operation would require a broad range of air, maritime and land capabilities. These could include: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; boarding teams; patrol units (air and maritime); amphibious assets; destruction air, land and sea, including Special Forces units.”
The Italian government has been keen on such a scheme for some time and it would officially come under Italian military command.
It is an attempt to stop refugees before they are on the high seas and become a problem that any European nation can be held accountable for. This leaves people who have fled one warzone trapped in another.
The issue has led to a division in the EU. The main worry of the governments pushing the military campaign is to stop the influx of refugees before the possible introduction of “emergency mechanisms” by the end of the month.
These would require all EU countries to take a share of “persons in clear need of international protection”.
Up to 8,000 migrants were stuck in boats off the coast of Thailand as Socialist Worker went to press.
Most are Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, where they are an oppressed minority. Others have travelled from Bangladesh.
As with the refugees in the Mediterranean, governments do not want them to land so that they are not responsible.
Nearby countries have been using their navies to drive boats out of their waters rather than rescue the refugees. Several have spent months at sea.
Around 700 have got as far as Indonesia, where they have been allowed to land and set up a camp.
Other ships have run out of supplies, reducing refugees to fighting for scraps of food.
Saturday 30 May, 12 noon. Organised by the STUC. Go to bit.ly/1G6l8e9