Netherlands foreign minister Bert Koenders has called on the United Nations to deploy sanctions in the fight against people smuggling and trafficking via Libya.

Placing the leaders of the criminal organisations involved in people smuggling on a sanctions list would make it possible to freeze their financial assets and to prohibit any economic support for these organisations.

‘Sanctions of this kind would help undermine the business model of these criminals,’ explained Mr Koenders. ‘What’s more, our aim in Libya is not only to get the flow of migrants under control, but also to combat the gross violations of human rights increasingly being suffered by those smuggled into the country.’ More and more migrants heading for Europe are finding themselves living in deplorable circumstances and falling victim to violence, rape and forced labour.

The Netherlands is working with other countries to examine the feasibility of sanctions, ideally imposed by the UN Security Council, on human traffickers active in and around Libya. ‘It will require a careful approach’ said Mr Koenders, ‘since sanctions are a very severe measure’. But the situation, according to the foreign minister, demands an urgent response. Many migrants are still risking their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, partly because of the activities of the people smugglers. Unfortunately many of these migrants lose their lives in doing so.

Today Mr Koenders is attending a migration conference in Rome, to step up cooperation in the area of migration along this route. ‘The priority now is for the various European and African countries to work together more effectively and take measures to better manage the flow of migrants, safeguard human rights and curtail the activities of the people smugglers. The Netherlands has a role to play here too. Sanctions are part of that,’ said the foreign minister.

On Friday and Saturday Mr Koenders will join Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the G20 summit in Hamburg, where measures in the area of migration will be discussed. Here too, the Netherlands will advocate a broad approach to dealing with the migration route across the Mediterranean.