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Operation Sophia: a failed mission Contents

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

1.We remain of the view that Operation Sophia has 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. An unintended consequence of Operation Sophia’s destruction of vessels has been that the smugglers have adapted, sending migrants to sea in unseaworthy vessels, leading to an increase in deaths. (Paragraph 45)

2.A naval mission is the wrong tool with which to tackle migration in the central Mediterranean. There is little justification for the deployment of high-end naval and air assets for the tasks being undertaken by Operation Sophia in Phase 2A. We are not convinced that essential intelligence on land-based smuggling networks can be gathered from the high seas. As the Government told us, there are cheaper and more suitable ships to continue the essential task of search and rescue, which could be deployed in place of the mission in continuing to save lives. (Paragraph 46)

3.We are concerned by reports of serious abuses of the human rights of migrants by the Libyan coastguard. We ask the Government to provide us with its assessment of the extent to which the human rights elements of Operation Sophia’s training packages are likely to improve the treatment of migrants by the Libyan coastguard. (Paragraph 47)

4.If an agreement is reached to modify the Libyan Political Agreement and secure the support of the House of Representatives, this could have a positive impact on security and governance in Libya and provide a stronger partner for the EU to engage with on migration. But migration is unlikely to be at the top of the agenda in Libya, and EU activity against smugglers on Libyan territory is likely to remain politically contentious. (Paragraph 63)

5.We are concerned that the UK and EU Member States have not been sufficiently engaged on Libya at the highest level. We therefore welcome the Foreign Secretary’s recent visit to Libya, and hope that this marks the beginning of a renewed UK and EU engagement, including with the House of Representatives. (Paragraph 64)

6.In our earlier report we concluded: “Given appropriate political support in Libya—however unlikely that may be—[Operation Sophia] could, potentially, play a more useful role if able to operate in Libyan waters (Phase 2B) and onshore in Libya (Phase 3). In order to keep this possibility open, we recommend that the Member States should review and renew the mandate in summer 2016.” Given the current political and security environment in Libya, we conclude that Operation Sophia is unlikely to move into either Phase 2B or 3 in the short term. We therefore see little reason to renew the mandate of the mission in its current form beyond 2017. We make recommendations on a future mission in the next chapter. (Paragraph 65)

7.The existence of Operation Sophia is not a precondition for EU training of the Libyan coastguard. We recommend that the Government discuss with the EU and its Member States how this activity could be separated from Operation Sophia, were its mandate not to be renewed. (Paragraph 66)

8.Disrupting the business model of smuggling networks will require concerted action at Libya’s southern land border. We therefore welcome the EU’s suggestion to develop a plan for a further Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission for Libya. The plan should support the Libyan authorities in combating irregular migration on the southern border, as originally envisaged for Phase 3 of Operation Sophia. It should be implemented when the political and security conditions in Libya allow. (Paragraph 81)

9.Wider initiatives by the UK and the EU to tackle irregular migration—including outreach work in source and transit countries, and law enforcement co-operation—are welcome. Any new CSDP mission in Libya should be embedded into existing initiatives. (Paragraph 82)

10.We are concerned by the dangerous conditions facing migrants in Libya, and welcome the Government’s work in providing funding through respected NGOs and international bodies to ameliorate these conditions, and supporting voluntary returns from Libya. (Paragraph 83)

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