EU to launch naval operation against Libya migrant smugglers

EU prepares to launch first naval operation in Mediterranean against Libya migrant smugglers

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The European Union is set to launch a military naval operation on Monday which is the first phase of a plan aimed at destroying boats that have carried tens of thousands of migrants through the Mediterranean into Europe, said EU diplomats, according to Associated Press.

AP reported that the diplomats only spoke on condition of anonymity as the official decision is expected to be announced on Monday following the meeting of EU foreign ministers that will be held in Luxembourg.

Diplomats said the EU would start to destroy boats by using ships, planes and drones for surveillance and intelligence-gathering.

“Ministers would only be launching phase one, which is essentially intelligence-gathering on the high seas. They would only have a legal mandate to launch phase one in the absence of a Security Council resolution,” said one of the EU diplomats.

The naval operation cannot be fully implemented as the mission needs clearance from the United Nations and the consent of Libyan authorities.

Gaining Libyan consent seems to be challenging as the country is in turmoil, due to the two rival governments in constant dispute over the nations control.

The second phase of the operation is when operational personnel will have the authority to board ships, arrest smugglers and disabling boats on the high seas.

The proposed third phase could be a related operation in Libyan waters or a special forces missions on land.

Inner turmoil in Libya, which began with the House of Representatives’ (HoR) attempted forced closure of the General National Council (GNC) in August 2014, has made it a hub for immigrant entry from Africa and the Middle East as the two rival parliaments feud for control of the country, leaving internal matters such as immigration in disarray.

The GNC holds greater influence in Libya's internal affairs and economic institutions than the rival HoR. However the HoR, based out of Tobruk, has enjoyed a greater audience from some members of the international community and ongoing UN peace talks aim to unify the two bodies.

The call for the naval mission came on May 19 as tens and thousands of people fleeing poverty and war-torn countries started to cross the Mediterranean.



The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported on June 9 that almost 103,000 people have taken deadly boat trips across the Mediterranean Sea in order to reach Europe, where the issue of migrants and refugees has raised domestic and international concern.

Over 1,800 people have died trying to take on the perilous voyage with still hundreds of bodies not recovered following the most horrific accident when a boat with multiple floors capsized on April 19, claiming the lives of an estimate of 800 people.

TRTWorld and agencies