EU agrees to boost Libya naval mission: official

A fighter from forces aligned with Libya’s new unity government stands at the side of a road during a clearing operation of Zaafran area in Sirte, June 11, 2016. (Reuters)

EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed to boost the bloc’s anti-people smuggling operation in the Mediterranean to include training of the Libyan coastguard and enforcing a UN arms embargo.

Ministers also agreed to extend Operation Sophia’s mandate by one year to July 2017, a statement said, as the European Union tries to control a flood of migrants from North Africa and beyond trying to get to Europe.

“The Council (of member states) extended until 27 July 2017 the mandate for EU NAVFOR MED Operation Sophia, the EU naval operation to disrupt the business model of human smugglers and traffickers in the southern central Mediterranean,” a statement said after the ministers met in Luxembourg.

“The Council also reinforced the operation’s mandate by adding two supporting tasks -- training of the Libyan coastguard and navy, and contributing to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya,” it said.

The EU launched Operation Sophia last year after hundreds of migrants died when their rickety boats sank off southern Italy, sparking popular outrage at their plight.

It currently comprises five vessels and three helicopters charged with intercepting smugglers' boats and destroying them, in international waters.

Officials said they will review what additional assets the mission will need in July so Sophia will be able to meet its new tasks.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47