Italy sends naval mission to Libya

Migrants on a wooden boat are rescued by German NGO Jugend Rettet ship “Juventa” crew in the Mediterranean sea off Libya coast, June 18, 2017. Picture taken by Stefano Rellandini on June 18, 2017.

TMP – 18/08/2017

Italy has sent a naval mission to Libya to help the North African country’s coast guard curb migrant flows across the Mediterranean to Italy.

Italy’s prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, announced the operation saying it had been requested by Libya’s U.N.-backed government. Gentiloni said the aim of the mission is to curb human trafficking and bring migrants rescued from smugglers’ boats back to Libya.

An Italian patrol boat was dispatched within minutes of a vote in Italy’s parliament authorizing the operation. The boat’s crew included a small advance team charged with coordinating planned joint actions with the Libyan coastguard.

A boat for logistics and maintenance support for the Libyan coastguard is expected to join the patrol boat soon. Italy initially hoped to send six ships into Libyan territorial waters but the plans had to be scaled back following protests from Tripoli.

“We will provide logistical, technical and operational support for Libyan naval vessels, helping them and supporting them in shared and coordinated actions,” Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said.

Italy hopes the Libyan coastguard can help prevent flimsy boats carrying migrants from setting sail. Italy has been a active in helping to make the Libyan coast guard more effective by training its members and upgrading its fleet.

Almost 600,000 migrants have arrived in Italy over the past four years, putting Italy’s reception centers under huge strain and increasing political tensions in the country.