EU curbs rubber dinghy, outboard motor sales to Libya to stop migrants

A rubber dinghy with outboard motor full with migrants, off the coast of Libya. [Frontex]

The European Union yesterday (17 July) adopted limits on the export of inflatable boats and outboard motors to Libya in a bid to make it harder for smugglers to send migrants to Europe.

The decision by the foreign ministers of the 28 EU states is the latest to help a chaotic and violence-torn Libya stem the flow of migrants to Italy, now the main route to the bloc.

“We took a decision to introduce restrictions from today onwards on the export and supply to Libya of inflatable boats and motors,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.

“These devices are used by traffickers for smuggling activities. This decision we have taken at the European Union level will help make their businesses and lives even more complicated,” the former Italian foreign minister told reporters.

An EU statement said there will now be a legal basis to block the supply of dinghies and outboard motors to Libya if there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect they will be used by people smugglers and human traffickers.

The restrictions will also apply to such goods if they are transiting through the EU to Libya – a move which would in theory affect China where many are manufactured.

Fishermen and others who have legitimate reasons to use the dinghies and motors will still be able to import them, the council said.

In practice, EU countries could deny licenses to import-export businesses suspected of supplying smugglers, according to EU sources.

In a commentary, EURACTIV recently raised the issue of modern technology in the hands of people smugglers, such as the new giant inflatable boat industry which until now was under no control whatsoever.

The Brief: Italians should be furious

Unprecedented numbers of sub-Saharan African migrants are arriving in Italy. Most of them are not in need of international protection, and the EU and its member countries are doing nothing to share the burden.

The foreign ministers meanwhile extended until the end of 2018 an EU mission to help Libya re-establish effective controls mainly at its southern borders where sub-Saharan African migrants first arrive.

Libya is struggling to control its long land borders with Sudan, Chad and Niger.

In another bid to stop smuggling, the EU has also trained 113 Libyan coast guard members in the last few months and plans to train another 75 starting in September, Mogherini told reporters.

The EU is facing growing pressure from Italy to stop the flow of migrants to its shores, including demands to make member states admit tens of thousands of migrants under a largely unenforced emergency plan launched nearly two years ago.

The Italian authorities have already registered 85,000 arrivals on its coasts in the first six months of the year.

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