Europe shouldn't use force to stop people smugglers -UN investigator

by Reuters
Friday, 23 October 2015 20:38 GMT

Migrants, who tried to flee to Europe, travel in a dinghy after they were stopped by Libyan coast guards and made to head to Tripoli September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Image Caption and Rights Information
EU operation aims to help stem flow of migrants and refugees as Europe faces its biggest migration crisis since World War Two

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Europe should not use force to stop people smugglers in the Mediterranean, a U.N. investigator said on Friday, suggesting the European Union could team up with the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to resettle two million refugees.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, said the U.N. Security Council was mistaken to authorize European Union naval operations in the high seas off Libya to seize and dispose smugglers' vessels.

Earlier this month the council approved the EU operation, which aims to help stem the flow of migrants and refugees as Europe faces its biggest migration crisis since World War Two. Crepeau warned that the crisis could last decades.

"Force is not going to do anything to stop the migration crisis. It's not going to work ... the Security Council is mistaken and the EU is mistaken," Crepeau said.

More than 700,000 people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa have reached Europe this year, according to the International Organization for Migration, with thousands losing their lives crossing the Mediterranean.

"Do for the Syrians and the Eritreans and maybe the Afghans what we have done almost 40 years ago for the Indochinese - resettlement programs, massive resettlement programs from transit countries over many years," Crepeau said.

"If Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand got together with Europe and said ... 'let's divide up all those refugees from the Middle East and do this over five, six, seven years' ... we come to very small numbers in the end," he said.

The United Nations has said that more than 4 million Syrians have fled the country during a nearly five year long civil war. Some 250,000 people have been killed in Syria and an estimated 6.3 million are internally displaced.

A Syrian government crackdown on a pro-democracy movement in 2011 led to an armed uprising. Radical Islamic State militants have since seized on the chaos to declare a caliphate in territory they have seized in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

"If peace is made in Syria, not 10 years from now, but in a year or two, peace comes back to Syria and some kind of reasonably functional government is put in place, I expect that a good number of Syrians in Europe will go back," Crepeau said. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.