European foreign and defense ministers agreed on Monday to use naval forces to intercept and disrupt ships used by smugglers of migrants from North Africa, a far more assertive attempt to combat the swelling migration crisis that has led to thousands of deaths at sea.
The aim of the program is to stop smugglers with human cargo before or shortly after they leave the shores of North African nations like Libya. European navies would then return migrants to African ports and destroy the ships used to transport them.
The decision to militarize the response appeared to have the support of the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, who said the alliance could offer assistance if called on. But the use of European naval power to address the crisis will require further approval from European governments as well as coastal states in North Africa or from the United Nations Security Council.
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