Migrants stopped by Italian Navy

EU ministers have approved plans to establish a naval force to combat people-smugglers operating from Libya.

The aim is to launch the operation next month, with a headquarters in Rome under an Italian admiral, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.

The EU is struggling to cope with a surge in illegal migrants from Africa and the Middle East crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.

Ms Mogherini was speaking after talks with EU foreign and defence ministers.

The UK is playing the lead role at the UN Security Council in drafting a resolution that would give the EU a legal basis for using military force against people traffickers.

There would be three phases in the naval operation, the EU foreign policy chief explained:

  • Intelligence gathering on smugglers
  • Inspection and detection of smugglers’ boats
  • Destruction of those boats

“It is not so much the destruction of the boats but the destruction of the business models of the (smugglers’) networks themselves,” she explained.