EU foreign ministers have agreed to launch a military mission against migrant smugglers in the Mediterranean.
The decision allows European governments to move ahead with plans for a naval operation. European naval forces will intercept and destroy ships used by smugglers of migrants from North Africa.
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.
But that will require authorization from the U.N. Security Council, which has begun to consider the matter. The UK is playing the lead role at the UN Security Council in drafting a resolution that would give the EU a legal basis for using military force against people traffickers.
The military operation is part of a bigger EU blueprint launched after the Mediterranean experienced its deadliest ever migrant shipwreck in April, which took the death toll this year to 1,800 people.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said
she expects the operation to be fully launched next month after Britain, France, Italy and other nations pledge military equipment.
NATO said it stood ready to help out if needed. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urging Europe
to take that step, partly because Islamic State militants might be "also trying to hide, to blend in among the migrants" in order to get to Europe.
The operation will have its headquarters in Rome and be run by an Italian rear admiral, Enrico Credendino, with an initial year-long mandate.