EU naval mission is saving lives but ‘fails to stem migrant crossings’

A naval mission is failing to tackle people smugglers and stem the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, it is claimed. Operation Sophia had played an important search and rescue role but had not reduced the number of people making the journey to Europe or disrupted the smugglers’ networks “in any meaningful way”, a report by British peers said. The European Union-run mission had only been responsible for low-level arrests, while the destruction of vessels had caused the smugglers to shift from using wooden boats to even more unstable rubber dinghies, said the House of Lords EU committee.

However valuable as a search and rescue mission, Operation Sophia does not, and we argue, cannot, deliver its mandate. It responds to symptoms, not causes.

House of Lords report

The naval mission has saved an estimated 9,000 people or more, the peers said. But their report concluded that the EU must focus on tackling the root causes of migration, including helping countries overcome security and development challenges. Meanwhile, hundreds of migrants were brought to Italy on Friday having been rescued from the sea over the past day. However, most of the 800 saved from two ships were Egyptians, Somalis and Eritrean, rather than Syrians or Iraqis, the Italian coastguard said.

It is very risky and these people including many families with babies have been adrift at sea for many days, up to a week

Carlotta Sami,  spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR