22nd Mar 2018

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"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 mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints

EU policy and law makers are ironing out final details of a legislative reform on collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees, known as Eurodac. The latest plan includes possibly using coercion against minors, which one MEP calls "violence".

Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant

Niger has temporarily stopped all evacuations from Libya detention centres under an EU funded programme because so few are being resettled to Europe. Many of those that have been evacuated are pregnant, with some asking for HIV testing.

EU seeks another €3bn Turkey migrant deal

Money should flow despite concerns about the Turkish regime, the Commission said. EU should "pressure" African states to take back unwanted migrants, it added.

EU billions had 'limited' effect in Turkey, audit finds

The EU got "limited" effect for the €9bn it spent trying to modernise Turkey in recent years, auditors have said. Turkey has been "backsliding" on reforms since 2013 due to "lack of political will", the European Court of Auditors found.

EU billions had 'limited' effect in Turkey, audit finds

The EU got "limited" effect for the €9bn it spent trying to modernise Turkey in recent years, auditors have said. Turkey has been "backsliding" on reforms since 2013 due to "lack of political will", the European Court of Auditors found.

News in Brief

  1. EU will be exempted from tariffs, says US minister
  2. Malmstroem: EU 'hopes' for US tariffs exemption
  3. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says
  4. Italy's centre-right set to share top posts with 5-star movement
  5. Brussels condemns tear gas in Kosovo parliament
  6. Finland pays billionaire €400,000 in EU farm subsidies
  7. 44 leaders sign up for Africa free trade area deal
  8. British 'blue' passports to be made in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. EU summit takes hard look at Russia
  2. Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing
  3. EU leaders set for 'stormy debate' on digital tax at summit
  4. EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery
  5. Judicial reforms 'restore balance', Poland tells EU
  6. Whistleblower fears for life as US arrests Malta bank chair
  7. Behind the scenes at Monday's EU talks on Russia
  8. US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions