UN Security Council adopted a resolution authorising the European Union and individual countries to seize migrant smuggling vessels on the high seas off Libya for another year. The resolution was adopted following continued loss of life due to migrant smuggling and human trafficking off the coast of Libya.
The resolution, adopted on 6 October 2016 by a vote of 14-0 with Venezuela abstaining, stressed that the council's aim is to disrupt the organized criminal enterprises engaged in migrant smuggling and human trafficking and prevent loss of life.
By the terms of the text, the Council also urged States and regional organizations whose naval vessels and aircraft operate on the high seas and airspace off the coast of Libya, to be vigilant for migrant smuggling and human trafficking, encouraging them to increase and coordinate their efforts to deter those acts, in cooperation with Libya.
The Council emphasized that all migrants, including asylum seekers, should be treated with humanity and dignity and that their rights should be fully respected, and urged all States in this regard to comply with their obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international refugee law.
Further, the Council called on all States, with relevant jurisdiction under international law and national legislation, to investigate and prosecute persons responsible for migrant smuggling and human trafficking at sea, consistent with States' obligations under international law.
The Council called for Member States to consider ratifying or acceding to the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, which supplements the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, as well as the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The State Parties to these protocols are urged to implement them.
The Council requested States to update the Security Council every three months on the progress of actions undertaken, and asked the Secretary-General to submit a report eleven months after the adoption of this resolution on its implementation.
Britain's UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said after the vote that he wanted to make clear that the EU's Operation Sophia is only targeting smugglers and empty boats. He said migrants found during the operation are taken to Europe.
Since the UN authorised the interdictions in October 2015, the Operation Sophia flotilla has directly apprehended 90 suspected smugglers and has made over 300 smuggling vessels unusable.
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