Former Special Boat Service officer Lord Ashdown has said special forces could be used to prevent the great volumes of people dangerously attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, by covertly putting smuggler ships out of commission before they cast off.
Although the Liberal Democrats are often regarded for their compromising approach to global issues, former party leader Lord Ashdown was robust in his suggestions of how to deal with people smugglers. The Guardian reports his comments: “It is unsustainable and unacceptable to have a policy of drowning refugees when we should be attacking the smugglers.
“We should be helping countries like Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, the departing nations, to attack people smugglers. There may also be a case for using special forces of interdiction to destroy the boats before they leave port.”
Libyan smuggling gangs have recently attacked European coast guards to ‘get back’ their boats, after the asylum seekers on-board had been rescued and were being moved onward to Europe. That the criminal groups would go so far as to fire on unarmed Coast Guard ships with automatic weapons suggests there is now a shortage of boats gripping criminals in Libya. Sinking craft at their moorings would therefore serve to both prevent crossings, and therefore preserve human life.
It is thought the death toll of those who sank in unseaworthy boats attempting to reach Europe over the weekend could rise as high as 950. The sudden spell of clement weather has caused a surge of migrants as calm seas mean even shoddier boats than ever could attempt the crossing, with smugglers often taking over $1,000 a head, whether their charges arrived alive or not.
The United Kingdom withdrew its contribution to the European Union-backed naval task force combing the Mediterranean for migrant boats last year, stating that providing a comprehensive safety net encouraged not only the migrants, but the smugglers as well. European Union rules on human rights state that if asylum seekers are picked up, European nations have to accept them, rather than sending them back.