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Operation Atalanta

Volume 554: debated on Monday 26 November 2012

Operation Atalanta is one of three multinational counter-piracy operations in the Indian ocean that have played an important role in the dramatic reduction in piracy observed over the past 12 months. Operation Atalanta assesses that there are now only five vessels and around 140 hostages held captive off the Somali coast. That compares favourably with May 2011, when there were believed to be 23 vessels and about 500 hostages being held.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Deterring piracy at sea is essential, but it addresses the symptoms, not the causes, of Somali criminal activity. Will he commit the Government to tackling the deeper political causes by supporting the parallel EUCAP NESTOR mission on the ground in Somalia?

My hon. Friend is right that the piracy will not be resolved entirely at sea, and EUCAP NESTOR is showing early promise of delivering effect. The subject will be returned to at the next EU Foreign Affairs Council early next year. I pay tribute to the EU training mission in Somalia, which is showing early promise and already training people to ensure that we tackle this problem at its heart and do not rely simply on our undoubted success offshore.

But what assessment has the Minister made of the links between al-Shabaab and piracy in the region, and what are the Government’s long-term plans to tackle the growth of extremism operating both within and out of Somalia?

We have seen some early signs of improvement politically and economically in Somalia. It is absolutely essential that the root causes of insurgency are dealt with at source, and that is happening. The international community is absolutely committed to dealing with this and tackling the menace that al-Shabaab poses.