Published On: Thu, Mar 28th, 2019

EU Marine Mission To Be Conducted Without Ships

Experts warn of the end of the EU operation “Sophia”.

Operation Sophia

After four years, under pressure from Italy, the rescue of shipwrecked migrants in the Mediterranean by the EU naval mission “Sophia” ends. EU government diplomats agreed on Tuesday to extend the mission by six months, but end the deployment of the remaining two by 31 March. The activities of smugglers, oil and weapons shifters will be monitored from the air only.

“This decision makes it official, which in fact has happened since July 2018: since then, ‘Sophia’ has not performed single salvation,” says Matteo Villa from the Italian Institute for International Policy Studies in Milan to the press. In addition, he confirmed the suspicion expressed by the German side that the operational management of “Sophia” since the onset of the populist government in Rome sent targeted ships in Mediterranean regions where no migrant boats were to be found: “This is an open secret.” Villa warns that the cessation of rescue work takes place at a very unfavorable time: “First, spring is starting, so more boats are dropping off.” Secondly, the Libyan haulage syndicates have an economic incentive to put more of the migrants they are into on boats, “So they might send money from Italy.” The responsibility for the potential increase in deaths lies in the capitals, not the EU: “No government will use political capital to continue the rescues.”

Marie De Somer from the European Policy Center in Brussels points to the wider political context: “If we do not reform the Dublin system and asylum rules, we will have the basic problem of operation ‘Sophia’ over and over again.”

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