Operation Sophia is set to begin two additional supporting tasks,in order to tackle trafficking and support the country’s search and rescue operations.
Counting already one year of launch and 10 months of operation, European Union Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med) Operation Sophia plans to train Libya’s coastguard and navy in order to contribute to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya.
Named after one of the 21 infants among the 25,000 people saved, Operation Sophia consists of 1,200 coast guard and navy officers from 24 member states, aiming to train on the first phase 80 Libyan officers and to gradually gain access in order to operate in the country’s territorial waters.
Since October 2015, 87 traffickers have been arrested within international waters according to EU sources. Operation Sophia got launched after the EU Council decided to proceed to an EU naval operation, aiming to disrupt the business model of human smugglers and traffickers in the Southern Central Mediterranean.
On the new training of the Libyan coastguard and navy tasks, EU sources confirm that Greece and Malta have already agreed to offer their training facilities and it is a matter of time for Italy to provide the country’s facility for the second training phase. Operation Sophia aims to start training on Libyan territorial waters by the end of this year, as the second phase is expected to kickstart by then. The overall duration of the first training package is estimated to last for 14 weeks, from the end of September 2016 until the end of January 2017.
On an operational level, a MoU is signed between operational quarters of Operation Sophia and the Libyan authorities. Plans are that Any ships found infringing UN arms embargo against Libya, will be escorted to the port of diversion at Marseille France, o dispose of weapons.
According to an EU source, 288 boats are neutralised until today. EU source refused to comment to New Europe if all the above numbers are satisfying, underlining the difficulties of naval and coast guard operations outside Libya’s territorial waters.
Frontex is on the spot to support the project, while the discussions with NATO are ongoing as it is excepted to offer a helping hand on information, sharing intelligence and logistics support.