ROME, JUNE 8 –The NGOs’ ships have never interfered with EUNAVFOR MED operations to rescue migrants. The Italian Admiral Enrico Credendino, commander of the Operation Sofia, the European Union mission to prevent illegal immigration in the Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED), has no doubts: non-governmental organizations (NGOs) take lifesaving and meritorious actions and deploy 40% of the rescue operations along the Central Mediterranean route. “A better coordination is however needed to counter human trafficking and save more lives”, Credendino adds, after two years spent in the waters of the Mediterranean to save human beings from drowning.
Started two years ago, operation “Sophia” primary mandate is to identify, capture and immobilize vessels carrying illegal immigrants, not to save lives at sea, but preventing desperate people to die is a duty impossible not to accomplish, also according to international laws. Since the beginning of the mission, Sophia has rescued 36,000 people, neutralized 440 boats, captured 109 suspected traffickers, later delivered to the Italian authorities and also 130 trained Libyan naval officers.
The target of dismantling human trafficking organizations would be more effective if the African country were stabilized and would allow EU ships to pursue people-smugglers in its waters: the mission could enter into Phase 3 and set out operations in the Libya territorial seas. To do this a new UN resolution is necessary and that should be asked by the Libyan government. “Nowadays the time is not ripe”, the Italian admiral explained during a recent forum in Rome.
The European mission (whose budget is € 18.5 million in two years, and includes five ships, two helicopters and five planes) expires on July 27, but the commander mandate will probably be extended until 31 December 2018. Negotiations are underway between 25 countries which support the operation, and the mandate could go through some changes. The key point remains Libya, a country without any central control. “We will train the local security forces – Credendino said -, so that they can fight illegal activities and save lives on their own: our goal is to train a thousand Libyan units within the next 12 months”. (@OnuItalia, 9 June 2017)