Rescuing a Rescue Mission: Rome Threatens to Leave ‘Sophia’ If No Migrant Deal Reached

Written by | Friday, August 31st, 2018

EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini said this week that there was still no agreement on practical solutions to migration. She urged member states to be more responsible and accountable for the fate of migrants in the Mediterranean. Ahead of informal meeting of EU defense ministers in Vienna, she said that EU capitals should take more responsibility to make sure that the bloc’s migrant rescue operation ‘Sophia’ continues to fight trafficking in the Mediterranean, calling on EU members to demonstrate a “constructive attitude” to help continue the mission.

“We can definitely not afford to leave an EU operation without clarity on the rules it has to follow,” she said. “It would be good if member states take more responsibility,” she added. “The important thing is that we manage to keep the operation going… This has been a remarkable achievement for all of the European Union.” In the meantime, Italy is now threatening to leave the mission in the Mediterranean unless there is a deal among EU member states to have migrants dock at their ports besides the Italian ones.

Operation Sophia – formally called the European Union Naval Force Mediterranean (EU NAVFOR Med) – was established as a consequence of the April 2015 Libya migrant shipwrecks and its aim is to combat human-trafficking syndicates and thus neutralize established refugee smuggling routes in the Mediterranean. The operational headquarters is located in Rome and the operation is under Italy’s command. Migrants saved at sea have so far disembarked at Italian ports but the Italian government is trying to change it so that rescue vessels can dock also in neighboring countries.

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