The EU’s naval mission, Operation Sophia, has failed in its mission to disrupt the business of people smuggling in the central Mediterranean. Its mandate should not be renewed, but the search and rescue work, which has saved the lives of many people, should continue.
These are the main conclusions of the UK Parliament’s House of Lords EU External Affairs Sub-Committee’s report, Operation Sophia: a failed mission, published today. It follows up a report published last year, which concluded that the mission faced “an impossible challenge”.
Operation Sophia appears to have little effect in deterring migration. Detections of irregular migrants on the central Mediterranean route were at the highest yet in 2016, when 181,436 people arrived in Europe by this route, an increase of 18% on 2015 (when the figure was 153,842).
Commenting on the report, Baroness Verma, Chair of the EU External Affairs Sub-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.”
Report findings include: