Wednesday, June 22, 2016

EU Expands Mediterranean Mission Around Libya

EU foreign ministers said they would expand and extend by a year Operation Sophia, a naval mission to combat human smuggling across the Mediterranean from Libya. EU forces will train the Libyan coastguard and Navy (WSJ) and intercept arms smugglers in the Mediterranean (Libya Herald) they say are supplying the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The United Kingdom is also reportedly considering sending military personnel to Libya to train the coastguard (Middle East Eye). Operation Sophia currently comprises five ships and three helicopters (DW), which the EU says has saved sixteen thousand migrants from drowning and has arrested seventy-one suspected human smugglers.
"Before the West intervened in Libya in 2011 to depose former leader Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, opponents to the campaign warned that it could become a Somalia on the Mediterranean. It appears that this prophecy is coming true. Since Qaddafi’s fall and the civil war that followed, brutal terrorist thugs and criminal syndicates have seized territory and exploited populations. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced internally or fled to neighboring countries. In Sirte, once a popular coastal conference spot, the so-called Islamic State (ISIS)—which relocated its headquarters there after it was gradually pushed out of Dernaa coastal city east of Sirte—has targeted whole tribes for their resistance to its new order," Lydia Sizer and Jason Pack write for Foreign Affairs.  

"The weakness of the Libyan state has been a key factor underlying the exceptional rate of irregular migration on the central Mediterranean route in recent years. While plans for two further phases would see Operation Sophia acting in Libyan territorial waters and onshore, we are not confident that the new Libyan Government of National Accord will be in a position to work closely with the EU and its Member States any time soon. In other words, however valuable as a search and rescue mission, Operation Sophia does not, and we argue, cannot, deliver its mandate. It responds to symptoms, not causes," the House of Lords' European Committee writes in a report.