By Jamie Prentis.
Tuns, 12 July 2017:
The EU’s Operation Sophia has failed in its chief aim of disrupting migrant smuggling a committee at the UK’s House of Lords has found.
An unintended consequence of Operation Sophia’s destruction of smugglers’ boats has been that the human-traffickers have started using unseaworthy vessels which has resulted in even more deaths.
Baroness Verma, chairman of the EU External Affairs Sub-Committee which produced the report, admitted that Sophia had been an humanitarian success but the report still generally damned the operation.
“Operation Sophia has failed to meet the objective of its mandate—to disrupt the business model of people smuggling. It should not be renewed,” she said.
“People smuggling begins onshore, so a naval mission is the wrong tool for tackling this dangerous, inhumane and unscrupulous business. Once the boats have set sail, it is too late,” Verma argued.
“Future UK and EU action should focus on tackling people-smuggling in source and transit countries and supporting sustainable economic development and good governance in these countries” she added.
For the EU to be able to provide onshore action against smugglers, a unified government operating in a stable Libya had to be in place. This seemed unlikely in the short-term, therefore the report concluded there was little reason to continue with Operation Sophia.
However, it recommended that search and rescue work continue. The number of recorded casualties on the central Mediterranean route increased by around 42% in 2016. There have been 2,150 recorded deaths to date in 2017.
Operation Sophia’s secondary aim was preventing the smuggling of weapons. The report said that so far there had not been a single seizure of any arms and only one suspect vessel had been boarded. This would seem to be at odds with the record. This May a German warship with Operation Sophia intercepted an arms cargo apparently bound for Libya. https://www.libyaherald.com/2017/05/14/presidency-council-angrily-denies-arms-smuggling-rumours/ .