Friday

12th Aug 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Frontex ends Lithuania border surveillance operation

The agency is suspending border surveillance operations in Lithuania. It also wants to reverse a rule which requires it to suspend operations in EU states where violations take place — and instead send in more agents.

Lampedusa: The invisible migrant crisis at Europe's gate

Last weekend, Italy's Lampedusa island was again making headlines for being overrun with migrants. But, paradoxically, the crisis was more visible from TV news bulletins and social media than from the ground.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts new season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us