(by Matteo Meloni)
LA VALLETTA, FEBRUARY 8 – The first training course of 89 Libyan cadets of the Coast Guard and Navy of the Northern African country came to an end today. Italian Navy cruiser “San Giorgio” hosted the graduation ceremony attended by European High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini, Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and the Head of EUNAVFOR Med Mission Admiral Enrico Credentino.
“Migration is an epochal emergency. There is no immediate solution but we are try to manage this phenomenon as best as we can, in adherence to your values, our law and our identity”, Minister Pinotti told the new graduates. The Italian government representative stressed that in January new boats full of migrants left Libya in spite of dangerously bad weather. “The Libyan Coast Guard saved over 1200 people, an encouraging sign”, Pinotti said, praising the Libyan sailors for their commitment, courage, competence and, last but not least, humanity.
UN High Representative Mogherini praised the graduates at the ceremony, celebrating a “great example of European partnership”. Migration “can only be managed effectively through cooperation and partnership”, said Mogherini during the ongoing Valletta Summit. Operation Sophia is a clear example of Europe’s common efforts in this field.
EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia is providing training to the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy. Among others, the goal of the mission is to strengthen Libyan officials’ capacities to save lives, to protect people and to make Libyan territorial waters more secure. The training comprised various components from basic seamanship to more advanced specialist skills, including a substantial focus on human rights and international law.
Italy strongly supports the operations of the European Union Naval Force, hosting the headquarters in Rome and taking an active role in the mission. Recently Italian Guardia di Finanza signed a technical agreement on the Libyan cadets training, contributing to enhancing their skills throughout 8 sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening, for four days.
In 2016 the UN Security Council authorised inspections of suspected embargo-breaking vessels off Libya’s coast, unanimously adopting resolution 2292. The resolution, in an effort to implement the arms embargo imposed on Libya, “authorizes Member States, acting nationally or through regional organizations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya believed to be in violation of the embargo”. Operation Sophia’s mandate was reinforced by the Council of the European Union in July 2016 adding two supporting tasks: the training of the Libyan Navy Coast Guard and Libyan Navy, and the contribution to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya.
More than 13,000 migrants have been rescued from the sea in the course of the operation Sophia. (@OnuItalia)