Libya signs a deal with EU to train Coastguards in a bid to cut off migration influx

The EU began training Libya's coastguard two years ago, but had to suspend activities due to the security situation (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)
The EU began training Libya’s coastguard two years ago, but had to suspend activities due to the security situation (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

EU navies are to start training the Libyan coastguard in a bid to curb migration from the divided north African nation.
The agreement was signed in Rome on Tuesday (23 August) by Italian rear admiral Enrico Credendino, who heads the EU’s anti-smuggler operation, Sophia, and by Libyan commodore Abdalh Toumia, who runs the country’s coastguard on behalf of the Government of National Accord (GNA), its UN-backed authority.

The majority of migrants coming via Libya are fleeing poverty and war in Africa, the IOM said.
The training programme is to start on one of Sophia’s vessels, which are currently parked in international waters near Libya.

It will then move onshore either to Libya or to an as yet unnamed EU member state and end with training on Libyan ships.

Credendino said it would “improve the security of Libyan territorial waters” and help Libya to “perform law enforcement actions in order to tackle the criminal organisations that take advantage of smuggling and trafficking in human beings.”

“This will contribute to prevent further loss at sea”, he said.

Sophia, which began work in mid-2015, has five vessels – from Italy, Germany, Spain, and the UK – as well as three helicopters and three other aircraft.

The EU said on Tuesday it has plucked 21,958 people from the sea over the past year.

It has also sent 84 suspected smugglers to be tried in Italy and prevented 255 boats from being reused.

Migrants, most of them from Africa, are using Libya as a departure point to Europe in large numbers despite the perils of the journey.

Some 104,000 people arrived in Italy via the central Mediterranean in the period from 1 January to 21 August, compared to 116,000 last year, according to the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

More than 2,700 people died trying to make the crossing, compared to 2,546 last year, the IOM said.

Almost 2,300 people were rescued at sea just last weekend, the IOM added, but one boat, carrying mostly Syrian people, capsized last Friday near Italy, causing six deaths.

The Italian coastguard rescued another 500 people on Tuesday.

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