Deploring continued loss of life due to migrant smuggling and human trafficking off the coast of Libya, the Security Council this morning extended its authorization for Member States to intercept vessels on the high seas suspected of being used for those illicit activities, for a further period of one year.
Adopting resolution 2312 (2016) with 14 votes in favour and 1 abstention by Venezuela, the Council extended the authorization, first established by resolution 2240 (2015), for Member States, acting nationally or through regional organizations, to inspect vessels they had reasonable grounds to suspect were being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya and to seize those confirmed to be engaging in those activities.
The Council’s authorization for those measures, it again stressed, required full compliance with international human rights law, as well as good faith efforts to obtain the consent of the vessel’s flag State prior to any action, and did not authorize interference with vessels entitled to sovereign immunity under international law.
Through today’s text, the Council urged Member States and regional organizations engaged in the area, including the European Union, to cooperate with Libya’s Government of National Accord, including by sharing information and building needed capacity to secure its borders and prevent, investigate and prosecute acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking.
The Council underscored that the resolution intended to disrupt organized criminal enterprises and prevent further loss of life and “was not intended to undermine the human rights of individuals or prevent them from seeking protection” under international human rights and humanitarian law. It also urged those taking action under the authorization to have due regard for the livelihoods of those engaged in fishing or other legitimate activities.
Following the adoption, the representative of Venezuela said that he had abstained for the same reasons his delegation had abstained from resolution 2240 (2015) last year. Doubts persisted that the authorization was the appropriate mechanism to deal with the great flow of the people fleeing war and poverty, even if many became the victims of smugglers. Reports had shown that deaths and disappearance continued, and routes were often changed to evade the actions called for in the resolution.
A broad-based approach was needed rather than a narrow one that focused on military action, he said, adding that the root causes of the mass migration and the principals of criminal enterprises involved were not being affected by such measures. Military and political interventions had caused destabilization in Libya, Syria, Iraq and other countries. Poverty and exclusion were rife, as well. It was fundamental, he maintained, to adopt measures that addressed such underlying causes. The aim of the resolution, however, seemed to be to keep asylum seekers and migrants from reaching certain countries, fomenting xenophobia and the avoidance of responsibility, he said.
On the other hand, the representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and France welcomed the renewal of the authorization. The United Kingdom’s representative agreed that a comprehensive approach was needed to address the needs of asylum seekers and other migrants, but said that current uncontrolled migration constituted an acute crisis, resulting in a high death toll due to illegal smuggling activities.
He noted that, through the European Union’s Operation Sophia, over 90 smugglers had been apprehended and over 26,000 people were estimated to have been rescued under the Council’s authorization. As people smuggling had not been eradicated, however, the operation must continue as an essential part of a fuller strategy to deal with mass migration and its root causes.
Similarly, the representative of the United States, noting his country’s support to maritime operations related to Operation Sophia and the Government of National Accord, said that all speakers had recognized that there was a human tragedy in the Mediterranean and it was part of a wider challenge. “Our work today is one part, just one part, of what is needed to save lives”, he said.
France’s representative pledged his country’s continued full support to Operation Sophia, noting that European efforts would soon extend to training for the Libyan Coast Guard. It was crucial for the United Nations, however, to come up with a comprehensive strategy for migration in the Mediterranean and to help end the crises that were driving people to flee.
Uruguay’s representative stressed the necessity under international humanitarian law to continue Operation Sophia and other operations under the resolution. Such operations must at the same time respect international human rights and humanitarian law. He stressed, in addition, that it was not a crime to migrate: “Migrants must not be criminalized,” he said.
Speaking last, Libya’s representative said that the waves of migration currently occurring were unprecedented in human history. His country was at the very heart of those waves because of its geographic location between destabilized and poor countries and Europe. People in transit through the country could be exploited both by traffickers or political factions. Libya’s Coast Guard had been able to save many lives, but he highly appreciated the European Operations for the same purpose.
He warned, however, that the problem could not be dealt with through military means alone, by sequestering migrants in Libya or through other partial solutions. Root causes must be dealt with in source countries by ending conflicts, fighting poverty and cooperation between source and destination countries. The European Union should have a central role in formulating and implementing such a long-term strategy, he said.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:35 p.m.
The full text of resolution 2312 (2016) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling resolution 2240 (2015) and presidential statement S/PRST/2015/25,
“Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya,
“Welcoming the Secretary-General’s report S/2016/766,
“Recalling that international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982, sets out the legal framework applicable to activities in the ocean,
“Reaffirming also the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC Convention) and its Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Air and Sea, as the primary international legal instruments to combat the smuggling of migrants and related conduct, and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UNTOC Convention, as the primary international legal instruments to combat trafficking in persons,
“Underlining that, although the crime of smuggling of migrants may share, in some cases, some common features with the crime of trafficking in persons, Member States need to recognize that they are distinct crimes, as defined by the UNTOC Convention and its Protocols, requiring differing legal, operational and policy responses,
“Deploring the continuing maritime tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea that have resulted in thousands of casualties, and noting with concern that such casualties were, in some cases, the result of exploitation and misinformation by transnational criminal organizations which facilitated the illegal smuggling of migrants via dangerous methods for personal gain and with callous disregard for human life,
“Expressing grave concern at the ongoing proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, in particular off the coast of Libya and reiterating that among these migrants may be persons who meet the definition of a refugee under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol thereto,
“Emphasizing in this respect that migrants, including asylum seekers and regardless of their migration status, should be treated with humanity and dignity and that their rights should be fully respected, and urging all States in this regard to comply with their obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international refugee law, as applicable, stressing also the obligation of States, where applicable, to protect the human rights of migrants regardless of their migration status, including when implementing their specific migration and border security policies,
“Reaffirming in this respect the need to promote and protect effectively the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their migration status, especially those of women and children, and to address international migration through international, regional or bilateral cooperation and dialogue and through a comprehensive and balanced approach, recognizing the roles and responsibilities of countries of origin, transit and destination in promoting and protecting the human rights of all migrants, and avoiding approaches that might aggravate their vulnerability,
“Further recalling the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue,
“Expressing further concern that the situation in Libya is exacerbated by the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking into, through and from the Libyan territory, which could provide support to other organized crime and terrorist networks in Libya,
“Mindful of its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security under the Charter of the United Nations,
“Underlining the primary responsibility of the Government of National Accord to take appropriate action to prevent the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking through the territory of Libya and its territorial sea,
“Mindful of the need to support further efforts to strengthen Libyan border management, considering the difficulties of the Government of National Accord to manage effectively the migratory flows in transit through Libyan territory, and noting its concern for the repercussions of this phenomenon on the stability of Libya and of the Mediterranean region,
“Welcoming ongoing support by the most concerned Member States, including Member States of the European Union (EU), taking into account inter alia the role of FRONTEX and the specific mandate of EUBAM Libya in support of the Government of National Accord, and by neighbouring States,
“Acknowledging the European Council Conclusions of 20 June 2016 and the press statement of the African Union Peace and Security Council of 16 February 2016 which underlined the need for effective international action to address both the immediate and long-term aspects of illegal migration and human trafficking towards Europe,
“Taking note of the Decision of the Council of the European Union of 20 June 2016 to extend the mandate of EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia and to expand it, including capacity-building assistance and training to the Libyan Coastguard and Navy in law enforcement at sea, in particular to prevent human smuggling and trafficking,
“Taking further note of the ongoing discussions between the EU and the Government of National Accord on migration-related issues,
“Expressing also strong support to the States in the region affected by the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking and emphasizing the need to step up coordination of efforts in order to strengthen an effective multidimensional response to these common challenges in the spirit of international solidarity and shared responsibility, to tackle their root causes and to prevent people from being exploited by migrant smugglers and human traffickers,
“Acknowledging the need to assist States in the region, upon request, in the development of comprehensive and integrated regional and national strategies, legal frameworks, and institutions to counter terrorism, transnational organized crime, migrant smuggling, and human trafficking, including mechanisms to implement them within the framework of States’ obligations under applicable international law,
“Stressing that addressing both migrant smuggling and human trafficking, including dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks in the region and prosecuting migrant smugglers, and human traffickers requires a coordinated, multidimensional approach with States of origin, of transit, and of destination, and further acknowledging the need to develop effective strategies to deter migrant smuggling and human trafficking in States of origin and transit,
“Emphasizing that migrants should be treated with humanity and dignity and that their rights should be fully respected, and urging all States in this regard to comply with their obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international refugee law, as applicable,
“Bearing in mind the obligations of States under applicable international law to exercise due diligence to prevent and combat migrant smuggling and human trafficking, to investigate and punish perpetrators, to identify and provide effective assistance to victims of trafficking and migrants and to cooperate to the fullest extent possible to prevent and suppress migrant smuggling and human trafficking,
“Reaffirming the necessity to put an end to the ongoing proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants and trafficking of persons in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, and, for these specific purposes, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,
“1. Condemns all acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking into, through and from the Libyan territory and off the coast of Libya, which undermine further the process of stabilization of Libya and endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of people;
“2. Reiterates its calls on Member States acting nationally or through regional organizations, including the EU, to cooperate with the Government of National Accord and with each other, including by sharing information to assist Libya, upon request, in building needed capacity including to secure its borders and to prevent, investigate and prosecute acts of smuggling of migrants and human trafficking through its territory and in its territorial sea; in order to prevent the further proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking into, through and from the territory of Libya and off its coast;
“3. Urges Member States and regional organizations, in the spirit of international solidarity and shared responsibility, to cooperate with the Government of National Accord, and with each other, including by sharing information about acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking in Libya’s territorial sea and on the high seas off the coast of Libya, and rendering assistance to migrants and victims of human trafficking recovered at sea, in accordance with international law;
“4. Urges 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 acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking, and in this context, encourages States and regional organizations to increase and coordinate their efforts to deter acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking, in cooperation with Libya;
“5. Calls upon Member States acting nationally or through regional organizations that are engaged in the fight against migrant smuggling and human trafficking to inspect, as permitted under international law, on the high seas off the coast of Libya, any unflagged vessels that they have reasonable grounds to believe have been, are being or imminently will be used by organized criminal enterprises for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya, including inflatable boats, rafts and dinghies;
“6. Further calls upon such Member States to inspect, with the consent of the flag State, on the high seas off the coast of Libya, vessels that they have reasonable grounds to believe have been, are being, or imminently will be used by organized criminal enterprises for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya;
“7. Decides that, for a further period of twelve months from the date of adoption of this resolution to renew the authorizations as set out in paragraphs 7, 8, 9 and 10 of resolution 2240 (2015) and otherwise reiterates the content of those paragraphs;
“8. Reaffirms that the authorizations provided in paragraphs 7 and 8 of resolution 2240 (2015) apply only with respect to the situation of migrant smuggling and human trafficking on the high seas off the coast of Libya and shall not affect the rights or obligations or responsibilities of Member States under international law, including any rights or obligations under UNCLOS, including the general principle of exclusive jurisdiction of a flag State over its vessels on the high seas, with respect to any other situation, and that the authorization provided in paragraph 10 in resolution 2240 (2015) applies only in confronting migrant smugglers and human traffickers on the high seas off the coast of Libya;
“9. Underscores that this resolution is intended to disrupt the organized criminal enterprises engaged in migrant smuggling and human trafficking and prevent loss of life and is not intended to undermine the human rights of individuals or prevent them from seeking protection under international human rights law and international refugee law;
“10. Emphasizes that all migrants, including asylum seekers, should be treated with humanity and dignity and that their rights should be fully respected, and urges all States in this regard to comply with their obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international refugee law, as applicable;
“11. Urges Member States and regional organizations acting under the authorizations referred to in paragraph 7 of this resolution to have due regard for the livelihoods of those engaged in fishing or other legitimate activities;
“12. Calls upon all States, with relevant jurisdiction under international law and national legislation, to investigate and prosecute persons responsible for acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking at sea, consistent with States’ obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international refugee law, as applicable;
“13. Calls for Member States to consider ratifying or acceding to, and for States Parties to effectively implement the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, as well as the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children;
“14. Requests States utilizing the authority of this resolution to inform the Security Council within three months of the date of adoption of this resolution and every three months thereafter on the progress of actions undertaken in exercise of the authority provided in paragraph 7 above;
“15. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council eleven months after the adoption of this resolution on its implementation, in particular with regards to the implementation of paragraph 7 above;
“16. Expresses its intention to continue to review the situation and consider, as appropriate, renewing the authority provided in this resolution for additional periods;
“17. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”
* The 7782nd Meeting was closed.