January 24, 2019

EU Mission’s Fate in Mediterranean is in Italy’s Hands – European Commissioner

The fate of naval operations of the EU against migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean Sea is in Italy’s hands, AFP reports with reference to Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU’s Commissioner for Migration. 

The mission’s mandate is to expire in two months. The populist government in Italy threatens to stop Operation Sophia in case the EU does not change the rules, according to which rescue boats bring migrants to Italian ports. 

Operation Sophia was a success story. If Italy decides – since it is the country in command of operation Sophia –  to stop it, it is up to Italy to take this decision,” Mr. Avramopoulos claimed.

He added that the EU countries discuss the ways of the mission’s prolongation after March 31.

Rome has already prohibited NGO ships to disembark migrants rescued in sea in Italian ports. 

It also does not want the naval ships participating in Operation Sophia to disembark migrants in Italian ports. 

“Either the rules change, or it is the end of the mission,” the Interior Minister of Italy Matteo Salvini stated. 

It should be reminded that Operation Sophia was launched in 2015. It is aimed at the detention of smugglers and the neutralization of their business model. 

The Operation also includes training of Libyan coast guards and navy, as well as the control of UN’s arms embargo implementation in sea near Libya.