EU to resume patrols off Libyan coast; increased migrant pick-ups likely to occur

Next month, the European Union will begin conducting sea and air patrols off the Libyan coast in an effort to prevent armaments from being illegally delivered to the various factions currently at war there. They will also rescue any migrants who are found in the Mediterranean, as is required by international law.

The EU’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, said that the bloc “risked becoming irrelevant” if it didn’t act to control the arms smuggling situation, according to a report from the Greek newspaper Ekathimerini.

Greece has agreed to take in any migrants who are rescued during the course of the operation. The EU has offered to pay part of the costs associated with bringing the migrants to Greece.

The patrols had been delayed because of disagreement among the member states over the migrant issue.

The new operation is called Irini (Irene), and replaces the previous one, Operation Sophia, which ended a year ago after Italy refused to take in any more rescued migrants, under the direction of former Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini. Hundreds of thousands of migrants attempt to cross the Mediterranean from Libya each year, and many of them perish before they reach European shores.

EU diplomats admitted that they cannot control the land border between Egypt and Libya, through which weapons are also being delivered.

The sea patrols will begin next month.

Austria and Hungary objected to the new operation, which they believe will lure yet more migrants to an already besieged Europe, as previously reported by Voice of Europe