The Belgian frigate Leopold 1 arrived in the Sicilian port of Augusta earlier this week carrying 258 migrants rescued at sea as well as four suspected human traffickers who the crew handed to Italian authorities for further investigation.
This is not the first time EUNavFor Med assets, sailing under the Operation Sophia codename, has taken suspected human traffickers into custody. Operation Sophia is the second component of the overall EU task to stop illegal trafficking of people across the Mediterranean, often in unseaworthy vessels.
Three suspected human smugglers were identified in a group of migrants taken aboard HMS Richmond last week. All told 42 suspected human smugglers have been handed to Italian authorities since the end of July.
In four months of operations to date EUNavFor Med has brought over 5,300 boat migrants safely to shore and, according to the organisation’s press office, “disposed” of 41 boats so they can no longer be used to transport migrants seeking to leave Africa and enter Europe.
Last week saw five assets attached to EUNavFor Med combine to bring more than 500 migrants safely to land.
While on a routine patrol a Spanish Orion P3 and SW3 Merlin 111 Seagull from Luxembourg spotted three overcrowded boats, a fishing vessel and two skiffs.
Med Flagship ITS Cavour co-ordinated the rescue operation which saw Leopold 1, Richmond and the Triglav from Slovenia take all the migrants aboard for transfer either to land in Augusta or an Italian Coast Guard vessel.