Speech

"The migration crisis remains one of our greatest shared challenges"

Statement by Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, in the UN Security Council on renewing the mandate of the European Union’s Operation Sophia

Libya

Thank you Mr President.

The United Kingdom welcomes the adoption of resolution 2312, renewing the mandate of the European Union’s Operation Sophia for an additional 12 months. I am proud of the United Kingdom’s role holding the pen and I’m grateful to those Security Council delegations who supported the resolution today.

It is a vital renewal; the migration crisis remains one of our greatest shared challenges. Thousands have perished crossing the Mediterranean and thousands more continue to risk their lives to find a safer future. And so many, perhaps all of them, have been exploited … exploited at the darkest points in their lives; exploited by gangs with no regard for their safety, with no respect for anything other than profit.

In October last year, we took a stand against these traffickers. We authorised all European Union member states contributing to the operation to interdict these gangsters and their boats on the high seas. Since that adoption, the brave men and women of Operation Sophia have directly apprehended 90 suspected smugglers and have put over 300 smuggling vessels beyond use. In doing so, we have sent a clear signal that smugglers can no longer operate with impunity in international waters.

The European Union’s efforts have also saved lives. Over 26,000 are estimated to have been rescued.

But the smuggling networks have not been defeated. So through this renewal today, let us recommit our support to Operation Sophia as it continues its vital work to arrest smugglers and seize their boats. And let us be clear in this open session that Operation Sophia is only targeting smugglers and empty boats. Migrants encountered as part of the operation will be taken to Europe as part of existing procedures. And the European Union will do all that it can to protect the rights of those who need our protection.

Mr President,

Action against smugglers on the high seas is a key part, but only part of the solution to addressing the mass movement of people. We need to do more to tackle the root causes, including poverty, conflict and human rights violations and abuses. We must also do more to support countries hosting refugees from neighbouring countries and help reduce the secondary movements which pose so many dangers for migrants and refugees.

While we recognise the benefits of migration to source and destination countries, as well as to the migrants themselves, this process must be managed. All states have the right to control their own borders in line with international law but also in line with the obligation to accept the return of their nationals. So we need a comprehensive approach to the mass movement. This resolution is one part of that effort and an important part of the wider solution to this crisis.

Thank you.

Published 6 October 2016