Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.


Europe moves towards military intervention to prevent human trafficking

US Navy

This week, the European Union Ministers met up to discuss the ongoing migration crisis in Europe. An action plan was proposed for each country of the EU to maintain a certain quota of migrants so that the burden could be shared instead of lying heavily on certain states like Germany, Italy and Sweden. But this plan did not give any suggestions of how to address the problem at its cause. In this week’s talks, foreign and defense ministers discussed just that by looking into military force options in order to prevent human traffickers.

RECAP ON THE ISSUE: Thousands of people pay a large sum of money to smugglers to flee their Northern African countries and be transported across Mediterranean waters. There has been a sharp increase in crossings due to Libya’s civil war. People flee to avoid violence and to survive elsewhere, but the journey to Europe has proven to be just as dangerous in many ways.  There have been about 18 times as many migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea this year between January and April than in the same time period last year.

A three-stage plan came out of the deliberations:

1. Increase patrols in international waters to collect information like which routes the smugglers use. This intelligence is important before deciding the best move to make next.

2. Boarding, seizing, and diverting ships.

3. Consider destroying smuggler vessels close to Libya and North African coastlines.

Once approved by EU states, operations could potentially start within the coming weeks. However, the second and third phases present a unique challenge because if the EU wants to take action in international waters, they must receive a UN Security Council resolution and the consent of the North African countries before moving in.

Preventing human trafficking is a positive step towards a solution. Rather than just reacting to the issue, the EU is taking proactive measures to put an end to this human rights obstruction. Even though people willingly board the vessel to Europe, they are often given false hope of what is to come. The journey across the Mediterranean is dangerous in itself, but it becomes exponentially worse when hundreds of people are overcrowded onto a dilapidated boat, likely to sink.

While it is important that the EU moves forward with military intervention, it is equally important to make sure that the well-being of the migrants stays at the top of the agenda. A story arose over the weekend about Rohingya migrants fleeing from Myanmar that were abandoned in the middle of the sea by their smugglers. As bad as this is, what’s worse is that even after they have been discovered, they are still on the boat in the middle of the Andaman Sea. Neither Thailand, Indonesia, or Malaysia have agreed to rescue the ship full of people and let them find safety in their country. Thailand has implemented a series of regulations to crackdown on traffickers, which sounds like a good thing, but as a result the smugglers choose to abandon the ship full of people to avoid being caught by Thai authorities.

As the EU continues to deliberate the next series of steps to take, the migrants must remain a primary concern, and not be left at sea to die. It might be difficult to accommodate hundreds of people, yes. Therefore, taking measures to cut off the problem at the start is a good move, but turning a blind eye to the people suffering at sea is not an acceptable consequence. Let’s make sure policies are inclusive to all.