The European Union is preparing to bomb targets in Libya to stop migrants from attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in small boats. EU foreign policy coordinator Federica Mogherini is to brief the United Nations Security Council Monday on plans for a “Chapter VII” resolution that would give a UN green light for the use of force.
The plan is the outcome of several weeks of high-level consultations among the 28 EU members, including a foreign ministers’ meeting, held in response to a series of incidents of mass drowning of refugees. The worst such tragedy took place April 19, when some 900 drowned when their small boat capsized after colliding with a freighter.
The wreck of that boat, only 25 meters long, was found last Thursday by the Italian Navy at a depth of 375 meters, 190 kilometers northeast of the Libyan coast. Many bodies were seen in or near the wreckage, according to Giovanni Salvi, prosecutor in the Sicilian town of Catania, who is interviewing the relative handful of survivors.
The “bomb the boats” plan is driven, however, not by the number of deaths by drowning, but by the even larger number of refugees who have successfully reached the Italian island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, or have been picked up by merchant ships or the Italian coast guard and navy.
In the most recent tragedy, 40 migrants drowned May 3 when their rubber boat deflated and sank before an oncoming merchant ship could reach them. But another 160 were rescued from the sea. Over that weekend, a total of 4,800 refugees were rescued or reached Lampedusa, while another 2,000 were detained by the Libyan coast guard before their boats left the shore.