EU to restrict rubber boat sales to Libya to curb migrant smuggling

By Allen Cone  |  July 17, 2017 at 3:11 PM
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July 17 (UPI) -- The European Union's Foreign Affairs Council on Monday restricted exports of inflatable boats and outboard motors in an effort to curb the smuggling of migrants.

"EU member states will now have a legal basis to prevent the export or supply of these goods to Libya where there are reasonable grounds to believe that they will be used by people smugglers and human traffickers," the European Union ministers, meeting in Brussels, Belgium, said in a release. "The restrictions adopted today will not prevent the export or sales of these goods when they are meant for legitimate uses by the civilian population, for instance for fishermen, who may need motors for their boats."

The restrictions will also apply to dinghies and motors going through European Union nations en route to Libya.

The council didn't disclose how it will ensure exports don't wind up in Libya but in its report said it will consider how to extend the restrictions beyond the 28 EU members.

The number of migrants crossing the central Mediterranean to Italy so far this year is 85,00,0 including 24,800 in May alone, according to Frontex, the European border and coast guard agency. The six-month figure is a 21 percent increase from last year.

The International Organization for Migration reported 1,562 deaths along the central Mediterranean route from Jan 1 to May 31, a decrease of 25 percent from 2016.

A total of 4,027 migrants were rescued in Libyan waters in May, the organization reported.

The foreign ministers also agreed to extend a border aid mission in Libya through the end of 2018 that helps Libyan security forces, particularly in south.

In addition, EU's Operation Sophia is a navel effort "to disrupt the business model of human smugglers and traffickers in the southern central Mediterranean." It includes training the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy, and helping implement the U.N. arms embargo.

The council also noted recent violence "threatens Libya's stability" and "believes there is no solution to the Libyan crisis through the use of force."

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