UK Armed Forces personnel will today begin operations to help train the Libyan Coastguard, the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has confirmed.
The training, previously announced at the G7 in May 2016, will see a small team of Royal Navy personnel provide training to the Libyans in coastguard activities, such as search and rescue. As part of the EU’s mission in the Mediterranean, Operation Sophia, the training will increase Libya’s ability to secure its own borders by increasing their Coastguard’s ability to disrupt people smuggling and illegal arms trafficking in and around Libya, the UK Ministry of Defence said.
With 78 Libyan participants, the training is taking place on board two Sophia vessels in international waters and includes instruction in legal and human rights issues.
Specialist trainers from the Royal Navy will also teach the Coastguard in naval expertise, such as how to sail alongside, board and inspect vessels.
The training programme underlines the UK’s support to Operation Sophia, which aims to disrupt the activities of the smugglers who continue to exploit migrants trying to reach Europe, the UK Ministry of Defence said.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “People smuggling across the Mediterranean saw 3,000 people drowned at sea last year. To help prevent more lives being lost, the Royal Navy will provide training support to the Libyan Coast Guard. Fighting the smuggling of people and arms will save lives and make Britain safer and more secure.”
The training will began on 28 October, and will be delivered over the next three months. The programme will take place aboard European ships.
Other British ships and personnel are involved in Operation Sophia. Earlier this month RFA Mounts Bay resumed duties patrolling the Mediterranean to counter illegal arms trafficking, taking over from HMS Diamond.
On 27 October in Brussels the Defence Secretary followed a previous day’s announcement that RAF Typhoon jets would deploy to the Black Sea region and UK troops to the Baltic region, with discussions about a wider maritime role for NATO, working in co-operation with the EU.
He said: “Our jets and troops will help protect NATO’s flanks by air and land, and today we see a wider role for NATO at sea, helping to protect the Mediterranean and making us safer by working with the EU in tackling the flow of illegal migration, arms and potential terrorists.”