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Ireland will NOT be taking part in a new EU mission to destroy migrant boats

The operation aims to ‘dismantle the business model’ of human traffickers.

Rescued migrants line up after disembarking from the Irish Navy ship LÉ Eithne in Taranto, Italy, earlier this month.
Rescued migrants line up after disembarking from the Irish Navy ship LÉ Eithne in Taranto, Italy, earlier this month.
Image: Gaetano Lo Porto/AP/Press Association Images

EU FOREIGN MINISTERS this week launched a new operation to tackle the illegal activities of human traffickers operating in the Mediterranean.

Some 10 EU countries committed to providing ships and aircraft to monitor people smugglers taking migrants across the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe.

But Ireland will not be taking part in the mission, which will operate in international waters and airspace.

In a statement, the Department of Defence told said that its focus is on humanitarian search and rescue work.

It said, however, that Ireland supports the first phase of the operation, which will focus on the detection of migration networks in accordance with international law.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan yesterday confirmed that the work of Irish Navy vessel LÉ Eithne in rescuing migrants is separate to the EU mission.

But he said that he and other EU foreign ministers had agreed that “a military mission was required to tackle the ruthless smugglers who are plying their trade by charging vast sums to desperate people before launching them into often dangerous seas in often unseaworthy vessels.”

Destruction of boats

The second phase of the EU operation, which will begin only when UN authorisation has been secured, will involve seizing and possibly destroying the vessels and assets of human traffickers.

The overall aim of the mission is to “dismantle the business model” of traffickers, said Federica Mogherini, the EU high commissioner for foreign affairs and security policy.

The targets are not the migrants. The targets are those that are making money on their lives and too often on their deaths.

Vessels deployed as part of the mission will also be equipped to carry out search and rescue operations.

‘Disproportionate and disappointing’

In a statement yesterday, Aoife Murphy, spokesperson for the Migrant Rights Centre, said that the EU’s focus on people smugglers is “both disproportionate and disappointing”.

Creating safe, legal routes to Europe for those fleeing conflict, persecution, draught and abject poverty is the only way to stop desperate people from risking their lives in smugglers’ boats.

Over 100,000 migrants travelled to Europe so far this year, with some 2,000 reported to have died or gone missing during the dangerous journey from north Africa.

A further 519 migrants were rescued by the LÉ Eithne yesterday.

- additional reporting by Associated Press

Read: Why the death toll in the Mediterranean is surging >

Video: Hundreds of rescued migrants aboard Irish ship arrive in Italy >

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About the author:

Catherine Healy

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