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UN council to vote Friday on EU action against migrant smugglers

09 october 2015, 15:20

The UN Security Council will vote on Friday on a draft resolution authorizing European military action against migrant smugglers in the high seas off Libya's coast, diplomats said, AFP reports.

European warships launched Operation Sophia on Wednesday to seize traffickers' boats in international waters and stem the tide of migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

The British-drafted measure would give UN approval to the naval task force, which was not mandatory for the European Union to take action but would provide Operation Sophia with greater legitimacy.

The measure would authorize European naval forces to board ships for inspection, seize them and even dispose of vessels suspected of being used by migrant smugglers.

Russia had raised questions about the text, with Deputy Ambassador Petr Iliichev telling reporters that Moscow had "some concerns" about the measure drafted under chapter 7 of the UN charter, which authorizes use of force.

Diplomats however said they did not expect Russia to resort to its veto power to block the resolution. The council meeting is scheduled for 1400 GMT. 

Negotiations on the text have been held amid intense diplomacy over a separate draft resolution proposed by Russia on the Syria crisis that appears to have made no progress.

Presented to the council last month, the draft resolution on smugglers ran into opposition from African countries and Venezuela, while Russia raised questions about the measure.

African countries, however, appeared to have changed their stance after Libya's internationally recognized authorities said they had dropped their opposition to the proposed resolution.

Britain circulated a revised draft resolution to the 15 council members on Tuesday along with a letter from the Libyan ambassador stating that his government "is no longer objecting" to the text.

Europe hopes that smashing the refugee trafficking networks will help save lives and deter asylum-seekers from making the dangerous journey.

Around 3,000 people have died while crossing the Mediterranean to Europe this year, while over half a million have made the voyage, mostly landing in Greece and Italy.

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