Italy to send ships to aid Libya patrols
MILAN — Italy on Friday approved sending Italian naval ships to help the Libyan coast guard curb migrant trafficking in response to a request by the North African nation.
The measure is part of efforts to stanch the flow of hundreds of thousands of migrants who are smuggled out of Libya across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe each year by traffickers using unseaworthy boats.
Premier Paolo Gentiloni, who is under increasing pressure to manage migrant arrivals in Italy after being rescued at sea, said the initiative to help Libya patrol its shores “can give a significant contribution to reinforcing Libyan sovereignty. It is not an operation that we take against Libya sovereignty.”
Details about the operation, including the rules of engagement, were not disclosed after the Cabinet’s approval, but Gentiloni said Italy would “not be sending a huge fleet or air squadrons.”
Human Rights Watch warned, however, that the Italian action could amount to a naval blockade that “could expose migrants and asylum seekers to even greater abuse.”