Operation Atalanta has turned the tide on Somali pirates say Lords

21 August 2012

The House of Lords EU Committee for External Affairs has today praised the success of Operation Atalanta in curbing piracy off the Somali coast. However, they say that the operation must be extended beyond its current end date of December 2014 if it is to make a lasting difference in combating the threat.

The Committee say that Operation Atalanta has made clear progress in reducing the number of ships pirated, with only 8 vessels and 215 hostages held in June 2012 compared to 23 vessels and 501 hostages in the same month in 2011. 

Nonetheless the report 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 welcomes the increase in trials and imprisonment of pirates and particularly praises the role played by the Seychelles. However, the Committee do express concerns about the policy of transferring sentenced pirates back to Somalia for imprisonment and suggest there is a risk of breakouts. They call on the EU and UN to work together to monitor pirate prisons. They also say efforts should be made to ensure the imprisonment includes some efforts at rehabilitation as well as punishment, particularly for young pirates. 

Other findings in the report include:

  • Somali piracy will never be completely eradicated until the root causes of the problems in the country are addressed. The Committee welcome EU efforts to increase aid to the country and say that aid should be focused on providing alternative livelihoods for the Somali people to reduce the incentives to engage in piracy 
  • The Committee have changed their view on the use of armed guards on ships since their original report on piracy and now support the initiative as the evidence showed that no ship with an armed guard has been pirated and the use of guards has not escalated violence
  • The report welcomes the high degree of international cooperation in tackling Somali piracy with national navies of Russia, China and India all playing a role. This should act as a model for military cooperation in other theatres including EU-NATO relations
  • The role of China in particular is welcome and evidence of its increasing cooperation with the international community

Commenting Lord Teverson, Chairman of the Lords EU Committee for External Affairs, said:

"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 ongoing. To ensure this, Operation Atalanta should now have its remit extended beyond 2014.

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."

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