(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
The European Union (EU) announced on Monday that it will expand its military mission in Libya by the end of July 2016. The expansion of the EU mission in Libya is expected to provide additional assistance to the Libyan coast guard and support them in their fight to stop arms smuggling into Libya.
Within a week of the United Nations (UN) announcement of a resolution supporting the EU mission’s expansion, the EU is already wrapping up its preparation for the mission. The EU’s swift progress in the expansion of the mission is also attributed to its need to control the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe.
“We have to now act concretely, both against all those who exploit migrants … and in the fight against the arms smuggling, which benefits Daesh,” said Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault the French Foreign Minister in Luxembourg.
Groups who have disrupted Libya’s progress at establishing national resolve, such as ISIS and Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan Armed Force, have managed to do so as a result of the political vacuum that came to be after Gaddafi’s downfall.
The anarchy that followed Gaddafi’s death gave room for migrant smugglers to further their smuggling operations. The smugglers were able to further exploit migrants fleeing their homelands in search for a better life.
“I cannot imagine that this anarchy in Libya is in anybody’s interest, but that rather we must do everything to bring about a stabilization,” Jean Asselborn Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister said. “Libya is not only important for Europe, Libya is also important for all of Africa.”
Operation Sophia is the operation that the EU will be expanding. It was launched about a year ago to help regulate and bring order to the waters that separate the African and European continents. The operation’s force is made up of five vessels and three aircrafts.
The mission has been able to save about 16,000 migrants from drowning, 71 alleged smugglers were arrested and 139 boats belonging to the alleged smugglers were captured.
Information on what happens to the captured weapons, boats, cargo, along with the prosecution of the smugglers captured is yet to be determined.
Details on where weapon-carrying vessels would be brought, how the cargo would be handled, and where smugglers would be charged remain to be worked out.
A hundred Libyan coastguards will be trained for the duration of 14 weeks, and training will begin in international waters with the potential of it later moving into Libyan waters as mentioned by Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino, commander of Operation Sophia.
Some of the training of other Libyan officials will take place on the shores of EU countries and other countries not belong to the EU. Eventually Libyan officials will be trained on their own boats.
Italy will be offering 10 patrol boats that were originally going to be delivered to Libya after the fall of Gaddafi in 2011 to support Libya’s efforts in gaining control over its own coastline.
Credendino explains that the EU is providing support to help “improve the security of the Libyan territorial waters, to improve the Libyan and the navy coastguard’s ability to perform search and rescue activities … and to build closer relations with the Libyan authorities.”