EU to Approve Military Action Against Migrant Smugglers

EU to Approve Military Action  Against Migrant SmugglersEU to Approve Military Action  Against Migrant Smugglers

The European Union is set to back plans on Monday for an ambitious naval force to fight people smugglers in the Mediterranean after a series of shipwrecks that killed hundreds of migrants.

The unprecedented mission starting in June will involve the deployment of warships and surveillance aircraft off the coast of Libya, the main launching point for people risking their lives to reach Europe, AFP reported.

Foreign and defense ministers are set to approve the scheme -- a rare joint military step for a 28-nation bloc that historically prefers political and financial action to armed cooperation -- at a meeting in Brussels.

But the plan still risks being largely toothless unless the EU wins a United Nations resolution approving military action against smugglers before their boats reach European waters.

The EU wants to be able identify, intercept and possibly destroy the smugglers’ vessels while their boats are in Libyan waters in order to disrupt the traffickers’ “business model.”

More than 5,000 migrants, many escaping civil war in Syria, have died over the past 18 months while trying to cross from North Africa, often on flimsy rubber dinghies or crowded fishing boats.

Leading countries in the EU -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain -- have already promised to deploy warships for the mission to tackle the smugglers in the Mediterranean.