Six ships are now operational in the global waters off the coast of Libya, including an Italian aircraft carrier, a French frigate and one British, one Spanish and two German ships.
Six military ships were deployed in worldwide waters a few 19 km off Libya to enforce search and seize operations against migrant smugglers within the EU’s Sophia mission, formerly known as EUNavfor Med.
At least three other vessels supplied by the Belgian, British and Slovenian navies are expected to arrive in the area at the end of October to complete the force, which also include four aircraft and 1,318 personnel.
The first phase of the operation, which involved monitoring trafficker networks and rescuing refugees from rickety boats crossing the Mediterranean, has been running since June.
In its second phase, the Sophia mission will now include “board, search, size and divert of vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling or trafficking“, the EU Council said at the end of September.
But more than 2,600 deaths at sea have taken place in the Mediterranean between North Africa and Italy, a far higher total than the 254 between Turkey and Greece, according to the organization.
Belgium, Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom are among those taking part in the Operation.
The European Union hopes that it will move to a third, more aggressive stage, which would operate within the territorial waters of Libya, but this will be possible only with the approval of either the UN Security Council or Tripoli.
“The most efficient method of shutting down smugglers – a goal we agree with – is to eliminate the need for their services by providing safe and legal channels to Europe”, Diedring said. The only previous such address was in 1989 with then French President Francois Mitterrand and the German leader Helmut Kohl.