Getting Tough on Migrant-Smugglers: EU to Launch a Military Operation in October

Written by | Monday, September 28th, 2015

The head of European diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, has confirmed that “the political decision has been taken” to launch a EU operation against smugglers and migrant traffickers in the Mediterranean on 7 October. The military operation is expected to allow for arrests in international waters. “The assets are ready,” Ms Mogherini added.Using military force will include the seizure of vessels that are used to ship migrants via the Mediterranean. Because many of these ships set off from Libya, the operation will focus on this country.However, European warships will have to remain in international waters without actually straying into Libyan territory.
For the time being, the operation operates with four ships and four planes, as well as 1,318 staff from 22 European countries. It began at the end of June and has so far focused mostly on surveillance and intelligence gathering including data compilation and research on migrants rescued at the sea. As a result, Ms Mogherini now says that the EU has “a complete picture of how, when and where the smugglers’ organizations and networks are operating so that we are ready to actively dismantle them”. She added that starting in October, “we will be able to board, search, seize vessels in international waters, (and) suspected smugglers and traffickers apprehended will be transferred to the Italian judicial authorities”.
Brussels is continuously working on the legal terms of the operation. It is for example still negotiating with the Libyan government to get a permission to operate in the Libyan territorial waters. Now it is up to the EU’s Security Council to approve the operation. Ms Mogherini suggested changing the outfit’s name to “Sophia” after the baby born at the end of August on the German boat Schleswig-Holstein, after her Somalian parents were saved from a boat off Libya.

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