Italy completes first part of training for Libyan coast guard

TMP – 24/02/2017

Italy has trained the first batch of Libyan coast guards as part of a plan to cooperate with Libya to curb the flow of migrants from the North African coast.

The 78 members of the Libyan coast guard began training on 26 October 2016, aboard both the Italian ship San Giorgio and the Dutch vessel Rotterdam. The training was organized as part of the EU’s Operation Sophia, which was launched to stop illegal migration from North Africa to Europe.

Speaking about the training to a parliamentary committee in Rome, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti explained that Italy planned to tackle illegal migration by helping Libya to protect its southern borders where migrants first enter Libya and by strengthening the coast guard to help prevent migrants setting off to Italy.

“The Libyans say they will make the interventions and that we should help by providing the coast guards with guidance,” Minniti told the committee.

The overall objective of the training is to enhance the capability of the Libyan coast guard to disrupt smuggling and trafficking networks in Libya and to improve security.

The agreement has served as the groundwork for a more comprehensive deal reached between the EU and Libya in early February this year.

On 3 February, EU leaders agreed on a wider plan to train, equip and support the Libyan national coast guard to disrupt smuggling gangs and prevent migrants leaving the Libyan coast. The plan includes close cooperation with Egypt and Tunisia to tackle alternative routes and establishing new refugee camps in Libya to help house stranded migrants.

The Italian-Libyan commission set up as a result of the deal is scheduled to meet again in March to further discuss how to implement the return of illegal migrants.

Speaking earlier this month, Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat called the EU-Libya deal “one first decent shot at trying to get proper management of migratory flows in the Central Mediterranean,” while European Council President Donald Tusk added the deal “may be the first real pragmatic step” towards stemming migrant flows from Libya.