By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli, 27 October 2016:
The three-month training of 78 members of the Libyan coastguard begins tomorrow aboard two unnamed EU warships on the high seas that are part of its anti-smuggling operation Sophia.
The cadets, selected in what the EU says was a thorough and effective vetting process, will be trained from basic sea seamanship through to more advanced specialist skills and their course will include “a substantial focus on human rights and international law”.
Britain’s Royal Navy has said it is contributing a team of instructors and it is thought that Italian trainers will also be involved.
Brussels is acting on a formal request from the Presidency Council. The idea is that the Coastguard will be better equipped to crack down on the people-smuggling gangs as well as rescue migrants.
The programme, which has been weeks in the setting up, is going ahead despite a last-minute appeal by a charity which said that up to 20 migrants may have drowned when what they described as a Libyan coastguard vessel launched an aggressive interruption of a rescue operation. The Libyan navy denied that one of their craft was involved.
Meanwhile the litany of migrant horrors at sea continues. As many as a hundred people may have perished overnight after a decrepit fishing vessel fell apart in strong seas. In another incident France’s Doctors without Borders (MSF) said that when they rescued 107 people from a swamped inflatable raft, they discovered 29 corpses who had drowned, suffocated or been burnt in the fuel-laced water swilling in the bottom of the craft. Storms tonight in the Mediterranean threaten to add to the death toll.