12. Juli 2017 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „UK parliament says ‘Sophia’ saves lives, but has not stopped migrant smuggling“ · Kategorien: Europa, Großbritannien · Tags: ,

EurActiv | 12.07.2017

The European Union’s Mediterranean naval force has failed to stop migrants from making the perilous sea journey to Europe and should not continue operating in its current form, British lawmakers said on Wednesday (12 July).

The EU force, known as Operation Sophia, was set up in 2015 to fight people smuggling in the south-central Mediterranean, but it cannot enter Libyan waters without an invitation from the government, of which there are two vying for power in Tripoli and Benghazi.

Libya is a major departure point for mainly sub-Saharan African migrants trying to reach Europe through crossings arranged by people smugglers, often in flimsy boats.

The flow of migrants has increased amid the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

Lawmakers from a parliamentary committee focused on EU affairs, which released the report after an inquiry into the naval operation, said Sophia was costly and has not deterred migrants from risking their lives at sea.

“People smuggling begins onshore, so a naval mission is the wrong tool for tackling this dangerous, inhumane and unscrupulous business. Once the boats have set sail, it is too late,” said Conservative lawmaker Sandip Verma, chair of the committee that scrutinises EU documents and policies.

“The key is to look at the economic difficulties of these countries and why (migrants) are leaving in the first instance, and how we can prevent people from wanting to make that treacherous journey,” Verma said at a briefing.

The report said the European Union should continue its humanitarian sea rescues with non-military vessels, but it would not be able to disrupt the migrant smuggling business without a stable Libyan government to cooperate with. Italy, the country most hit from the influx of migrants from Libyan shores, has tried to broker agreements with local tribes.

Since its deployment, the EU naval force said it has arrested 110 suspected smugglers, prevented 463 boats from being re-used by traffickers, and rescued over 38,000 people at sea.

Last October, Operation Sophia also began training Libyan navy coastguards to “improve security of Libyan territorial waters” and to help with search-and-rescue efforts.

“As a consequence, the training packages will enhance Libyan Navy Coast Guard and Libyan Navy capability to disrupt smuggling and trafficking,” a spokesman for the EU’s Operation Sophia said in an email.

As the Mediterranean experiences calm summer weather, Europe’s governments are keen to avoid migrant drownings and to deter smugglers finding new routes after a deal between the EU and Turkey in 2016 cut trafficking across the Aegean Sea.

Some 100,000 people have arrived in Europe in unseaworthy boats so far this year, says the United Nation’s International Organization for Migration.

As of 6 July, almost 2,300 died or disappeared during the crossing, making the Central Mediterranean the world’s most dangerous border for migrants.


The Independent | 12.07.2017

EU refugee rescue mission in Mediterranean failing to tackle people smuggling, finds report

Operation Sophia has not detered migration and its mandate should not be renewed, say peers

A major naval mission spearheaded by the EU has failed to tackle people smuggling in the Mediterranean and may even be leading to higher death tolls, a new report has found.

Operation Sophia, launched in 2015, has had little effect in deterring migration and its mandate should not be renewed, according to findings by the House of Lords EU External Affairs Sub-Committee.

But the report concludes that the operation’s search and rescue work which has saved the lives of many people should continue.

The initiative, involving 25 EU member states including the UK, was set up in the wake of disasters in which hundreds of migrants drowned attempting to reach Europe.

Yet detection of irregular migrants on the central Mediterranean route was at its highest level in 2016, when 181,436 people arrived in Europe by this route — an increase of 18 per cent on 2015, when the figure was 153,842.

A naval mission is the “wrong tool” to tackle irregular migration, which begins onshore, the assessment found.

It claimed an unintended consequence of Operation Sophia’s destruction of vessels had been that the smugglers have managed to adapt, sending migrants to sea in unseaworthy vessels. This led to a tragic increase in deaths, with 2,150 in 2017 to date, the report added.

But it also noted that Operation Sophia vessels have rescued more than 33,000 people since the start of the mission.

The report comes just days after Amnesty International said “reckless” EU operations were destroying smugglers’ safest boats in the Mediterranean and causing more refugee deaths. It claimed the EU had “turned its back” on the search and rescue strategy.

A report by the human rights group argued that the search-and-rescue measures implemented in 2015 dramatically decreased the numbers of deaths at sea, but that EU governments had now shifted their focus to disrupting smugglers and preventing boats departing from Libya.

It said the EU strategy was “exposing refugees and migrants to even greater risks at sea”, destroying so many of the wooden boats used by smugglers that huge numbers of people had now started making the crossing on less safe rubber dinghies.

Commenting on the findings of Wednesday’s report, Baroness Verma, chair of the committee, said: “People smuggling begins onshore, so a naval mission is the wrong tool for tackling this dangerous, inhumane and unscrupulous business. Once the boats have set sail, it is too late.

”Operation Sophia has failed to meet the objective of its mandate — to disrupt the business model of people smuggling. It should not be renewed. However it has been a humanitarian success, and it is critical that the EU’s lifesaving search and rescue work continues, but using more suitable, non-military, vessels.

“Future UK and EU action should focus on tackling people smuggling in source and transit countries, and supporting sustainable economic development and good governance in these countries.

“Italy has found itself on the front line of a mass movement of people into Europe, and deserves credit for its efforts to respond.”


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