Speech

"Any smugglers stopped will be arrested and their boats will be seized."

Explanation of Vote by Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK Mission to the UN following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2240 on the Mediterranean migration crisis

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Thank you Mr President.

The United Kingdom welcomes the adoption of this important resolution today. Sadly, the issue it seeks to address – the migration crisis - needs little introduction to this Council. We already know it too well from the harrowing images of the drowned, from the heartbreaking stories of loss, from the tragic loss of life of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, and so many more.

The migration crisis is without doubt one of the greatest challenges of our generation. Thousands have died in recent months; thousands more continue to be exploited as they risk their lives to find a safer future in Europe. This cannot continue.

Since June this year, EU Forces in the Mediterranean have worked tirelessly to help alleviate the human tragedy on the high seas off the coast of Libya. They have saved thousands of lives. But the situation is worsening. So today the Security Council has authorised EUNAVFOR Med to begin interdictions against all migrant smugglers operating on the high seas.

These groups have no respect for human life; they exploit those taking the perilous journey across the Mediterranean; they overfill poorly maintained boats, ill-suited to such a difficult crossing; and abandon their passengers at the first sign of trouble.

All EU Member States contributing to the operation now have the authority to interdict them and their boats on the high seas. Any smugglers stopped will be arrested and their boats will be seized. We must not allow callous people smugglers to profit from others’ despair.

Let me be clear, Mr President, any action will be proportional, in keeping with the limits authorised by this resolution, and used solely against the smugglers and empty boats. Any migrants encountered as part of the operation will be taken to Europe as part of established procedures.

Sadly, action against the smugglers on the high seas won’t solve this crisis alone. But it will send a message that people cannot profit from this evil trade with impunity. It will save lives.

But we must continue to do more. That means deepening our partnership with the Libyan Government and working together towards the deployment of future phases of this operation.

I welcome the cooperation with the Libyan authorities on this resolution; and I also warmly welcome the political agreement on the Government of National Unity announced by Bernardino Leon last night. And we look forward to working with that future Government of Libya.

And if we are to end this crisis in the longer term, we now all need to work collectively to bring an end to the drivers of irregular migration. This is the surest way to put an end to the untold numbers of people dying in pursuit of a better future. This requires a response beyond the smugglers. It means helping countries to manage their migratory flows. It means addressing the root causes of mass migration including conflicts and poverty in Africa and the Middle East, as well as tackling extremist groups such as ISIL.

Mr President,

Today’s resolution is a small part of the solution to a huge challenge. As part of its comprehensive approach to migration, the European Union will do all that it can to protect the rights of those who need our protection, and to help alleviate the suffering driving people to desperation. The United Kingdom will continue to play a leading role in these efforts as we seek a comprehensive solution to one of the greatest challenges of our generation.

Thank you.

Published 9 October 2015