Saturday

29th Apr 2017

EU navies to help Libya coastguard stop migrants

  • Migrants rescued near Libyan waters cannot be turned back (Photo: Frontex)

EU navies are to start training the Libyan coastguard amid concern that the summer could see huge numbers of migrants try to cross the Mediterranean.

Foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (23 May) agreed the new task for Sophia, the EU's anti migrant-smuggling naval operation.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Mogherini said training will initially take part in international waters (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

They said that, based on a request by Libya’s new PM, Faiez al-Sarraj, they would start “capacity building and training of, and information sharing with, the Libyan coastguard and navy”.

They said they would help stop arms smuggling to Islamic State in Libya by enforcing a UN arms embargo in international waters once they have a new UN mandate to do so.

The also extended the life of the Sophia operation by one year.

Speaking after the ministers’ meeting, EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini said the training would start “very quickly.”

She said plans are still to be elaborated, but added that, in the initial phase, the training would be conducted on the high seas rather than in Libyan maritime zones or on Libyan territory.

The British foreign minister, Philip Hammond, said: “The Libyan coastguard is the basis on which we have to build security in the coastal waters of Libya … We can provide training, we can provide equipment."

The move comes amid concern that migrants are switching to the Libyan route after the EU closed the Western Balkans migratory corridor via Greece.

Europol, the EU’s joint police agency, estimates that there are 800,000 people in Libya waiting to cross to the EU. They sail in rickety boats from more the 80 embarkation points on the Libyan coast.

Sarraj’s unity government has pledged to work with the EU. But it controls little territory outside the capital Tripoli, with the rest of the country in the hands of hundreds of local chiefs.

Sophia was designed to help stem irregular migration.

But it has turned into a search and rescue operation, plucking more than 13,000 people out of the water in the past year. The political chaos and violence in Libya means that, under international law, boats intercepted near Libyan waters cannot be turned back.

Nato allies last week also decided to step in.

"We agreed that the alliance can do more in the Mediterranean," Jens Stoltennberg, the Nato chief, said, referring to surveillance and interception of boats by Active Endeavour, a Nato counter-terrorism operation in the region created after 9/11.

He said the issue of what to do with migrants rescued in the area “is one of the important issues we have to look into”.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said: “Nato can play a maritime role in terms of assisting operation Sophia in order to prevent illegal migration ... from taking place”.

The Nato-EU cooperation would mirror Nato support for EU efforts in the Aegean.

Nato surveillance operations have helped the Greek and Turkish coastguards to intercept more than 100 smugglers' boats in recent months, Stoltenberg said.

Western powers are also working with Egypt to stop the movement of jihadist fighters and arms from Syria to Libya.

According to Luigi Binelli Mantelli, Italy’s military commander from 2013 to 2015, the recent sale by France to Egypt of two Mistral-class warships, originally due to go to Russia, was designed to “to improve the posture of its [Egypt's] forces from Tobruk [in eastern Libya] westward.”

EU agrees new border guard agency

A new EU border and coast agency should become operational by the end of summer or start of autumn. It will need a country's consen to deploy guards.

EU asks for G7's help on refugees

EU Council president Donald Tusk said the world should show solidarity and help to pay for aid to refugees and encourage regular migration.

EU stands aside as Hungary detains migrants

Commission is withholding action on Hungary's detention of asylum seekers, even as the Hungarian government tries to "stop Brussels" on immigration policy.

Austria wants out of EU migrant relocations

Austria is required to start relocating asylum seekers from Italy and Greece after an exemption to the scheme ended on 11 March. But Austria's chancellor has other ideas and wants the exemption prolonged.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process