Saturday

1st Oct 2016

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.

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.

"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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFAEFA Supports a YES Vote in the Hungarian Referendum
  2. ACCAFinTech Boom Needs Strong Guidance to Navigate Regulatory Hurdles
  3. Counter BalanceWhy the Investment Plan for Europe Does not Drive the Sustainable Energy Transition
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region Seeks to Make Its Voice Heard in the World
  5. Taipei EU OfficeCountries Voice Support for Taiwan's Participation in ICAO
  6. World VisionNew Tool Measuring Government Efforts to Protect Children Released
  7. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  8. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  9. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  10. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  11. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  12. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List