The European Union has extended the mandate of its naval operation in the Mediterranean – known as EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia – until 31 December 2018.
The operation aims at disrupting the business model of migrant smugglers and human traffickers in the Southern Central Mediterranean.
The operation also has two supporting tasks: training the Libyan Coastguard and Navy and contributing to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya in accordance with UN resolutions.
In extending its mandate, the European Council also amended the operation's mandate to:
- set up a monitoring mechanism of trainees to ensure the long-term efficiency of the training of the Libyan Coastguard;
- conduct new surveillance activities and gather information on illegal trafficking of oil exports from Libya in accordance with UN resolutions;
- enhance the possibilities for sharing information on human trafficking with member states' law enforcement agencies, FRONTEX and EUROPOL.
Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said:
"Two years ago, the European Union's member states decided unanimously to tackle together one of the most despicable crimes of our times - the trafficking of human beings - by establishing EUNAVFOR Med - Operation Sophia.
“Many suspected smugglers have been apprehended and many lives saved in the Mediterranean Sea, and since last year our women and men serving under the European flag have been also training the Libyan Coastguard and enforcing the arms embargo on the high seas off the coasts of Libya.”
EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia was launched on 22 June 2015, as part of the EU's comprehensive approach to help better manage irregular migration and disrupt traffickers and smugglers' networks.
Since then, the operation has contributed to the arrest and transfer to the Italian authorities of 110 suspected smugglers and traffickers, and has neutralised 470 vessels. In addition, the operation has helped rescue close to 40,000 lives.
(Source: European Union)