Tuesday, 10/12/2019 | 5:01 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

EU plans to step up naval action against migrant smugglers (dpa German Press Agency)

Brussels (dpa) – The European Union could ratchet up a military
mission targeting migrant smuggling networks in the Mediterranean Sea
in October, sources said Friday, in a move that could allow the bloc
to search and seize vessels and arrest smugglers on the high seas.

The mission, formally named EUNAVFOR Med, was launched in June with a
view to dismantling the business model of migrant smugglers and
curbing the loss of life at sea. Its current mandate restricts the
operation to surveillance activities and rescue operations.

The head of the mission, Italian Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino,
recommended to EU ambassadors this week that they should move ahead
with phase two of the mission, giving it a more active role in
international waters, EU sources said on condition of anonymity.

This would “allow the operation to act in the high seas to tackle the
criminal networks in a more effective way,” EU foreign policy chief
Federica Mogherini said during a visit to Vienna on Thursday.

EU member states have been asked to take a quick decision, sources
said, with regular meetings of the bloc’s defence and foreign
ministers scheduled for the coming week.

If the operation is not ramped up in October, this may as well be
delayed until March according to the mission command, as the migrant
smuggling networks across the Mediterranean are expected to scale
back their activities during the upcoming winter months.

According to the sources, the proposal to expand the mission stems
from observations in recent weeks showing that smugglers often leave
Libyan waters to point migrant boats towards Europe, or even to
recoup vessels if the occupants are rescued at sea.

The EU mission was originally supposed to operate in Libyan waters
also, but this would require the backing of Libyan authorities and a
United Nations Security Council mandate.

Efforts to secure these approvals have been on hold as negotiations
drag on to establish a government of national unity between Libya’s
two rival administrations, just one of which is internationally

Conflict in the North African country has displaced hundreds of
thousands of people. Amid the chaos, it has turned into a major hub
for migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

Libya has suffered from turmoil since a 2011 revolt ended the rule of
dictator Moamer Gaddafi. The numerous militias that arose during the
revolt have become the main powers in the country, lining up behind
the two rival governments but not necessarily under their control.