The Council of the European Union has launched a naval operation to target ‘human smugglers and traffickers’ in the southern central Mediterranean Sea.
Known as EUNAVFOR Med, the operation will be given EUR11.82 million (USD13.41 million) to cover its initial mandate of 12 months.
In a statement released today, the council said the operation would “identify, capture, and dispose of vessels and enabling assets” being used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers. The statement also emphasised that EUNAVFOR Med “will operate in full compliance with international law, including humanitarian and refugee law and human rights”.
The EU is working with Libya on the operation. Asked about whom the EU is working with in Libya, an EU diplomat told IHS Maritime, “The EU supports the UN facilitation and work for a national unity government. For this operation, we are in touch with all Libyan partners.”
The operation will be launched in three phases. Phase one of the operation will focus on surveillance and assessment of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the southern central Mediterranean.
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The second stage is expected to provide “for the search and, if necessary, seizure of suspicious vessels”.
And the third phase would “allow the disposal of vessels and related assets, preferably before use, and to apprehend traffickers and smugglers”.
Operational assets for the first phase are five naval units, two submarines, two maritime patrol aircraft, two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and three helicopters.
In a statement, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, said, “With this operation, we are targeting the business model of those who benefit from the misery of migrants.”
She described the operation as “part of a broader strategy”, that included co-operating with partners in Africa (particularly in the Sahel region), the International Organization for Migration and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
There is no timeline for these phases. The council said it “will assess when to move beyond this first step”, by taking into account “a UN mandate and the consent of the coastal states concerned”.
Headquartered in Rome, the operation commander for EUNAVFOR Med is Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino who will be assisted at sea by Force Commander Rear Admiral Andrea Gueglio.