European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday to launch a mission in the Mediterranean Sea to enforce the UN-mandated Libyan arms embargo on the condition that it does not focus on saving lives.
The ministers agreed to a plan to deploy warships with the explicit goal of avoiding areas of the Mediterranean where they might have to respond to boats carrying migrants in distress. EU naval assets will reportedly patrol no closer than 100 kilometres (60 miles) or off the eastern coast of Libya.
The decision formally ends the already moribund Operation Sophia, the anti-smuggling mission set up in 2015 but left without any ships in the water since March 2019. It had failed principally because the previous Italian government had refused to allow people to disembark.
Previously, Operation Sophia rescued more than 50,000 people at sea.
Monday’s agreement includes a condition that ships be withdrawn if ministers detect any “impact on migration flows.”
Bowing to pressure from Austria and Hungary, two landlocked countries whose leaders define themselves by their hostile migration policies, the new mission is set up to minimize chances of rescuing people and having to bring them to Europe. (Source: HRW)