EU’s naval mission to stop migrants crossing Mediterranean branded a ‘failure’
THE EU’s naval mission to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya was
yesterday branded a “failure”. However, its report did say “civilian search and rescue work” should continue on humanitarian grounds.Since 2014 about 520,000 people are
thought to have crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy.Many more are believed to have come into Europe via Greece and Turkey. The report said an unintended
consequence of Operation Sophia’s destruction of vessels is that gangs are now sending migrants to sea in less seaworthy vessels.The number of recorded deaths from drowning in unseaworthy craft rose last year by 42 per cent to 4,500, compared to 2015.So far this year 2,150 deaths have been recorded. Yesterday committee chairman Baroness Verma said: “People smuggling begins onshore, so a naval mission is the wrong tool for tackling this dangerous, inhumane and unscrupulous business. Once boats have set sail, it is too late. Operation Sophia has failed to meet its objective – to disrupt the business model of people smuggling. It shouldn’t be renewed.“However it has been a humanitarian success and it is critical that the EU’s lifesaving search and rescue work continues but using more suitable non-military vessels.”She added: “Italy has found itself on the front line of a mass movement of people into Europe, and deserves credit for its efforts to respond.” MP David Davies added yesterday: “The Royal Navy has rescued hundreds of migrants and taken them to Italy. Wouldn’t it be better to take them back to North Africa? It would reduce the incentive to risk their lives and reduce the money being made by people smugglers.”Last year Libyan coastguards said Operation Sophia encouraged people smuggling.Head of operations Colonel Tawfik Alskir said: “When they get rescued, people call their friends to say there are EU vessels only 20 miles from Libyan waters to save them.”Last year the same Lords committee concluded that the mission, which patrols an area six times the size of Italy, faced “an impossible challenge”.