The European Union (EU) announced Tuesday it was extending the mandate of the naval operation against human smuggling in the Mediterranean Sea until the end of 2018, in a bid to further disrupt the smugglers’ business models.
The extension of EUNAVFOR MED-Operation Sophia’s mandate came amid unabated migratory pressure coming from the central Mediterranean route linking Libya to Italy, via which 85,183 migrants and refugees have arrived in the country since January.
Launched in June 2015 to help better manage irregular migration, the mission was authorized to identify, capture and dispose vessels used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers and human traffickers.
“As a matter of priority, we will start in the coming days the revision of the operational plan in order to include the new tasks, such as the mechanism for monitoring the Libyan coast guard and navy activities post training, and to strengthen the effectiveness of the mission and the shared responsibility among member states,” said EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.
The operation’s mandate was last extended in June 2016, with two supporting tasks — training the Libyan coast guard and navy, and contributing to the implementation of the United Nations arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya.
However, the effectiveness of the mission has been called into question as over 181,000 people arrived in the EU through the central Mediterranean route in 2016, while 4,576 people lost their lives in the risky journey, according to the International Organization for Migration.