Wednesday , 18 September 2019
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Praising the success of ‘Operation Atalanta’, the EU initiative to curb piracy off the Somali coast, the UK’s House of Lords EU Committee for External Affairs has stressed that if it is to make a lasting difference, it is important that it is extended beyond its current end date of December 2014.

Tide turned on Somali pirates

In a report the Committee says that Operation Atalanta has made clear progress in reducing the number of ships pirated, with only eight vessels and 215 hostages held in June 2012 compared to 23 vessels and 501 hostages in the same month in 2011.

However the report also makes clear that it is vital this effort is extended beyond 2014 to show the EU will not walk away from confronting piracy in the Indian Ocean. “Otherwise organisations and individuals that organise piracy will simply wait out the operation before returning to their previous activities,” the report states.

Support for the increase in trials and imprisonment of pirates has also been given by the Committee, although it voices concerns on the policy of transferring sentenced pirates back to Somalia for imprisonment, suggesting that there is a risk of breakouts.

It calls on the EU and UN to work together to monitor pirate prisons, suggesting that efforts should be made to ensure the imprisonment includes some efforts at rehabilitation as well as punishment, particularly for young pirates.

Stating that Somali piracy will never be completely eradicated until the root causes of the problems in the country are addressed, the Committee welcomed EU efforts to increase aid to the country. It believes this should be focused on providing alternative livelihoods for the Somali people to reduce the incentives to engage in piracy.

Originally opposing the use of armed guards on merchant ships, the Committee has changed its view and now supports the initiative as the evidence shows that no ship with an armed guard has been pirated and the use of guards has not escalated violence.

The report welcomes the international cooperation in tackling Somali piracy with national navies, including those of Russia, India and China, which, the Committee sees, is evidence of that country’s increasing cooperation with the international community

“Operation Atalanta has clearly made real progress in reducing the threat of Somali piracy. However if the situation is to continue to improve it is important the pirates know the international commitment to stop their activities is real and on-going. To ensure this Operation Atalanta should now have its remit extended beyond 2014,” said Lord Teverson, the Committee’s chairman.

“As we identified in our previous report reducing piracy requires reducing the incentive for Somalis to become pirates. As well as increasing the risk involved by improving detection and punishment of those engaged in piracy, we also need viable alternatives for Somalis to provide for their families. Again the EU is making progress but it is important that aid is now focused on providing alternative forms of livelihood so people don’t resort to piracy,” he added.