[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday expressed concern [press release] over the human rights issues raised by EUNAVFOR MED, an EU implemented naval operation to identify, capture and destroy boats used by smugglers in the Mediterranean. The Council of the European Union [official website] agreed [decision, PDF] to create the program on Monday with the stated purpose of “prevent[ing] human tragedies resulting from the smuggling,” however, HRW’s Judith Sunderland, acting deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia Division, responded to the plan and said
“[t]he EU needs to be honest in assessing how its intervention will push desperate people to take even more dangerous journeys, what becomes of people in need of protection seeking to leave an increasingly chaotic and violent Libya, and how this squares with international obligations.”
HRW encouraged the EU to consider proactive methods to improve the human rights situation dealt with by the asylum seekers instead of continued focus on limiting entry to EU borders.
The naval operation is the EU’s response to the present crisis in the Mediterranean. Since the beginning of 2015, at least 1,780 migrants and asylum seekers have died attempting the sea journey. Earlier in May Amnesty International reported [JURIST report] that refugees and migrants crossing through Libya faced human rights abuses including torture and rape causing many to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea trying to escape. In April UN rights experts warned [JURIST report] the EU that repression of irregular migration cannot be the only solution to the recurrent grave problem of masses of people drowning at sea. Also in April the UN called [JURIST report] on the EU to create a new rescue operation program for migrants attempting to traverse the Mediterranean and to commit to greater receipt of refugees.