Operation Sophia: a failed mission Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.The number of migrants crossing from Libya to Italy on the central Mediterranean route has continued to increase this year. The figures are shown in Table 1 below.3

Table 1: Migrant arrivals and deaths at sea 2015–2017

Year

Migrants arriving in Italy via central Mediterranean route

Deaths at sea (as recorded)

2017

84,8794 (as of 3 July)

2,150 (as of 2 July)5

2016

181,4366

4,5817

2015

153,8428

2,8769

2.In our May 2016 report, Operation Sophia, the EU’s naval mission in the Mediterranean: an impossible challenge, we considered this Common Security and Defence Policy mission against its mandate to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the central Mediterranean.10

3.We concluded that Operation Sophia had undertaken valuable search and rescue work, but that it had not in any meaningful way deterred the flow of migrants, disrupted the smugglers’ networks, or impeded the business of people smuggling on the central Mediterranean route. We also concluded that the weakness of the Libyan state had been a key factor underlying the rate of irregular migration on this route. While plans for two further phases would see Operation Sophia acting in Libyan territorial waters and onshore, we were not confident that the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) would be in a position to work closely with the EU and its Member States any time soon.

4.We recommended that the Member States should renew the mandate in summer 2016, to keep open the possibility that it could, potentially, play a more useful role if able to operate in Libyan waters and onshore if the right political conditions were to develop. In June 2016, the mandate of Operation Sophia was extended by a further year.11

This report

5.This report considers the progress made by Operation Sophia since our previous report, based on a short follow-up inquiry in March and April 2017 by our External Affairs Sub-Committee, whose members are listed in Appendix 1.

6.The mandate of Operation Sophia is due for renewal on 27 July 2017, and it is intended that this report will feed into the consideration by the Government and EU Members States of their approach to tackling migration on the central Mediterranean route. We are grateful to our witnesses, who are listed in Appendix 2.

7.We make this report for debate.


3 We use a number of sources for the number of irregular migrants on the central Mediterranean route in this report, including Frontex, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Italian Ministry for the Interior. Some disparity between the figures provided by these sources is possible.

4 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, ‘Mediterranean Situation’: http://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean?id=521 [accessed 4 July 2017] Irregular migration into Europe on the central Mediterranean route increased by 19% in the first six months of 2017 compared to 2016. For monthly figures of migrants arriving in Italy please refer to the numbers provided by the Italian Ministry of the Interior, Statistical dashboard of 30 June 2017: http://www.libertaciviliimmigrazione.dlci.interno.gov.it/sites/default/files/allegati/cruscotto_statistico_giornaliero_del_30_giugno_2017.pdf [accessed 4 July 2017]

5 International Organisation for Migration (IOM), ‘Recorded deaths in the Mediterranean Sea by route, January 1–July 2, 2017’: https://missingmigrants.iom.int/mediterranean [accessed 4 July 2017]

6 Joint Communication to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council on Migration on the Central Mediterranean route Managing flows, saving lives, JOIN (2017) 4 final

7 IOM, ‘Recorded deaths in the Mediterranean Sea by route, 2016’: https://missingmigrants.iom.int/mediterranean [accessed 4 July 2017]

8 Joint Communication to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council on Migration on the Central Mediterranean route Managing flows, saving lives, JOIN (2017) 4 final

9 IOM, ‘Recorded deaths in the Mediterranean Sea by route, 2015’: https://missingmigrants.iom.int/mediterranean [accessed 4 July 2017]. Frontex gives this number as 3,175: Frontex, Risk Analysis for 2017 (February 2017) p 20: http://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Publications/Risk_Analysis/Annual_Risk_Analysis_2017.pdf [accessed 27 June 2017].

10 European Union Committee, Operation Sophia, the EU’s naval mission in the Mediterranean: an impossible challenge (14th Report, Session 2015–16, HL Paper 144)

11 Council Decision 2016/993 of 20 June 2016 amending decision 2015/778 on a European Union military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED operation SOPHIA), OJ L 162/18 (21 June 2016)




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