EUNAVFOR, the Med and migrants

Tim Compston, Features Editor at Security News Desk, looks at European Union naval operations tackling people smuggling in the central Mediterranean – one year on – in the wake of a damming House of Lords Sub-Committee report.

Maritime security – EU naval mission sails in troubled waters

This is certainly an opportune moment to take stock of what is actually happening in the seas between Libya and Italy with regards to the trafficking of migrants and the attempts being made to interdict such activity in what, given recent news reports, are undoubtedly difficult and tragic circumstances. Despite criticism from some quarters that it hasn’t done enough on the people smuggling front, especially with regards to tackling the traffickers in coastal waters, the mandate of the EU Naval Force Operation – EUNAVFOR MED (Operation Sophia) – has just been extended for another year. Of course, as we will see, having a volatile situation in Libya certainly hasn’t helped matters.

So how big is the people smuggling problem at the moment? According to figures provided by the UK MOD the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Italy since the start of January this year amounts to over 25,000 with many of those originating in Sub-Saharan Africa, including 18 percent from Nigeria. Although this is still relatively small fry compared to the 180,000 who made their way to Greece, all the signs show that trafficking activity is likely to pick-up pace as we enter the summer period when conditions at sea are more favourable.

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