EU AIMS TO HALT MASS OF DEATHS AT SEA

A naval force will tar­get smug­glers who send mi­grants out of Libya in flimsy boats.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Tom King­ton King­ton is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

ROME — The Euro­pean Union on Mon­day launched a naval op­er­a­tion aimed at halt­ing smug­glers in Libya who so far this year have sent about 60,000 mi­grants sail­ing across the Mediter­ranean Sea, headed for Italy on f limsy boats.

Six naval ships, two sub­marines, two drones and three sur­veil­lance air­craft will make up the f leet, which will be led by an Ital­ian air­craft car­rier, the Cavour. The op­er­a­tion will run for 12 months.

Four­teen Euro­pean na­tions, in­clud­ing Italy, France, Ger­many, Spain and Bri­tain, are back­ing the op­er­a­tion, which was con­ceived af­ter about 800 mi­grants drowned when their wooden ves­sel cap­sized in April.

Although EU of­fi­cials have dis­cussed land­ing com­man­dos in law­less Libya to tackle traf­fick­ers and de­stroy boats, the eco­nomic bloc’s for­eign pol­icy chief, Fed­er­ica Mogherini, said Mon­day that gath­er­ing in­tel­li­gence would be the f irst task of the mis­sion.

The ini­tial phase, which is set to be­gin in the com­ing days, “cov­ers in­for­ma­tion gath­er­ing and pa­trolling on the high seas to sup­port the de­tec­tion and mon­i­tor­ing of smug­gling net­works,” she said.

Any in­cur­sions into Libyan wa­ters would re­quire a United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion, which has been held up by a lack of ap­proval from Libyan author­i­ties.

The North African coun­try has de­scended into chaos since the 2011 ouster and death of its ruler, Moam­mar Kadafi, and now has two ri­val gov­ern­ments, one in To­bruk and one in Tripoli.

Even if raids pro­ceed, it is un­clear how the EU would be able to iden­tify mi­grant boats be­fore they are put to use by traf­fick­ers.

But Mogherini said care would be taken to not harm mi­grants.

“The tar­gets, let me be very clear, are not the mi­grants. The tar­gets are those who are mak­ing money on their lives and too of­ten on their deaths,” she said. “It is part of our ef­forts to save lives.”

Though sail­ings from Libya to Italy con­tinue, 55,000 mi­grants, in­clud­ing many Syr­i­ans f lee­ing their na­tion’s civil war, have sailed to Greece this year af­ter cross­ing into Tur­key, with many wad­ing onto beaches among tourists on Greek is­lands.

Most plan to seek asy­lum in wealth­ier coun­tries such as Ger­many and Swe­den.

Other na­tions, in­clud­ing France, have be­gun to turn back mi­grants at their borders as voter re­sent­ment to­ward the grow­ing num­ber of ar­rivals in­creases.

Gae­tano Lo Porto AP

THE PORT of Taranto in Italy is a dis­em­barka­tion point for mi­grants res­cued by a Bri­tish ship.

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