The European Union Naval Force’s Mediterranean Sea operation to disrupt human smugglers and traffickers has been extended by a year to July 27, 2017.
Operation Sophia has also had two additional supporting tasks conferred on it for the next 12 months.
Training of the Libyan coast guard and navy and countering illegal arms trafficking are seen as being complementary to EU NavFor Med Operation Sophia’s major task of disrupting and hopefully, ending, the activities of human smugglers and traffickers in the Mediterranean.
The training side of the operation was approved by the European Council of the EU following what a statement said was “the legitimate Libyan authorities requesting support in capacity building and training of their coast guard and navy. The objective is to enhance capability to disrupt smuggling and trafficking in Libya and perform search and rescue activities to save lives improving security in Libyan territorial waters”.
Countering illegal arms trafficking will see a more secure and stable Libya contributing to overall efforts to disrupt smuggling and trafficking networks.
“On the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2292, the operation will contribute to information sharing and support implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya. This will increase maritime situation awareness and limit arms flows to Da’esh and other terrorist groups” the statement said.
EU NavFor Med Operation Sophia was launched on June 22, 2015, with the operation entering its active phase four months later. This saw warship and maritime patrol aircraft from various EU countries involved in identification, capture and disposal of vessels used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers.
The operation has, as of the end of June, contributed to the arrest and transfer to Italian authorities of 71 suspected smugglers and traffickers and neutralised 139 vessels. Additionally, the operation has helped save almost six thousand people.