Wednesday

20th Mar 2019

EU states to offer boats to Libyan coastguard

  • Operation Sophia has saved some 25,000 people since its launch last year (Photo: Frontex)

EU states may offer vessels to Libya as part of a broader effort against migrant smuggling.

An EU source on Wednesday (31 August) told reporters in Brussels that Libyans were likely to be patrolling their own territorial waters on the boats before next summer.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"I think that some member states will provide some more vessels to the Libyans," he said.

Libya is the main staging point along the north African coast for people seeking international protection in the EU.

Some 100,000 have left the country, often in overcrowded and unseaworthy boats, since the start of the year.

Sophia, the EU's naval operation in the Mediterranean, was earlier this week tasked to train the Libyan coastguard and also start cracking down on boats ferrying weapons to the conflict-ridden country.

The campaign is not alone in the region. An Italian maritime security operation with five ships is also present, along with Nato, NGOs, and the EU's border agency Frontex.

But Sophia's training and arms missions represents another turning point since its 22 June 2015 launch.

A three-phase training period for Libyans is set to kick off late September or early October.

Some 80 Libyans will be selected and vetted and then trained aboard the San Giorgio Italian armoured cruiser in international waters for 14 weeks.

"Training them and giving them some capabilities will give them the possibility to save lives," the EU source said.

Twice as many people have died this year crossing the sea compared with last year.

Around 2,000 perished inside Libyan waters this year alone, noted the source.

He said the presence of Sophia on the rim of Libyan territorial waters has acted as a major deterrence for smugglers.

Since last year, the operation has seized 288 boats, arrested 87 smugglers and helped save the lives of almost 25,000 people.

Sophia's ultimate goal is to one day operate inside Libyan territorial waters as well.

But such a mission would require an invitation from the Libyan authorities and a UN Security Council mandate. Neither appears likely in the immediate future.

Arms embargo and Nato

In the meantime, the UN security council has given the naval campaign authority to seize weapons at sea.

Boats caught with arms will be escorted to a port in Marseille where crew members will then face French justice.

"If there is a need to dispose of these weapons, they will be escorted to the port of diversion," said a second EU source.

The move means Sophia will have more ships at its disposal.

The operation already involves 24 EU states, five ships, three helicopters, three aeroplanes, and some 1,200 people under the command of Italian rear admiral Enrico Credendino.

Two more ships are expected from France and another from the UK. Belgium is also set to deploy a boat in October.

Nato, which is also operating in the same waters, is set to help Sophia with logistics and intelligence gathering.

Jamie Shea, a Nato official, earlier this year had said the alliance was procuring new Global Hawk drones that may be deployed near the Libyan coast.

Nato to join EU warships in Libya migrant operation

Nato warships and, potentially, drones are to help the EU control migrant flows across the Mediterranean in what critics have called the “militarisation of a humanitarian crisis”.

EU to help Libya send migrants back home

EU states aim to help Libya deport would-be migrants back home, while keeping open “all available options” on its response to Russia’s "deliberate targeting" of civilians in Syria.

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

News in Brief

  1. EPP proposes suspension for Orban's Fidesz
  2. May asks for Brexit extension until 30 June
  3. Juncker: Brexit decision unlikely this week
  4. North Macedonia EU-membership talks set for June
  5. EU ups benefits rights for mobile workers
  6. Chinese leader visits Italy, France as Rome joins 'Silk Road'
  7. EU agrees to sanction political parties breaching data rules
  8. EPP votes Wednesday on future of Orban's party

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. May tosses Brexit spanner into EU machinery
  2. Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban
  3. A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension
  4. US glyphosate verdict gives ammunition to EU activists
  5. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  6. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance
  7. EU rolls out €525m for military projects, but bars illegal tech
  8. May to seek Brexit extension amid UK 'constitutional crisis'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us