EU scales down Operation Sophia by ending naval patrols in the Mediterranean

5th April 2019

After struggling to come to an agreement with Italy over an extension of Operation Sophia – the joint military operation by the European Union that was established to end refugee smuggling in the Mediterranean – Brussels announced that it would end its naval patrols after the Italian government said it would no longer receive migrants rescued at sea.

In a major compromise to Rome’s demands, the EU’s mission will extend its air patrols in the Mediterranean for up to another six months.

The EU’s maritime patrol detachments had rescued thousands of migrants who were making their way to Europe using the perilous sea crossing from North Africa. Italy’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, however, said that his country would no longer be the main point of disembarkation for people who were trying to make the crossing.

The Italian government has repeatedly called for other countries to open up their ports instead, but no other EU states came forward, but diplomats from Spain, France, and Germany have said that they are not willing to host more migrants – most of whom are fleeing wars and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

Operation Sophia’s mandate was due to expire on 1 April and will now continue for another six months with the same aim of deterring smugglers from carrying people across the Mediterranean.

“Operation Sophia is an essential part of the European Union’s work to dismantle the business model of traffickers and improve the overall maritime security and stability in the central Mediterranean,” a spokeswoman for the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said.

The decision made by the EU will have to be formally adopted by the European Council before the end of April. Operation Sophia’s naval arm will now need to follow the instructions of the EU Political and Security Committee and temporarily suspend its deployment of ships.

Source: New Europe


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