Italy's controversial mission off the Libyan coast

Italy is deploying a naval mission off the coast of Libya to combat people smuggling. European media see the operation as further proof of the EU's failure on migration policy.

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Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

Europe at risk of disgrace again

The Berliner Zeitung sees Rome's move as a dangerous militarisation of the refugee policy that will ultimately achieve nothing:

“At best, the people smugglers' activities will be hampered, but they will find other routes. But what will happen to the refugees? Will they be sent back to Libya where they face torture and abuse at the notorious detention centres? Or will the Italians bring them to Italy after all? Rome is hoping Libya will set up registration centres for refugees, as other European politicians are also calling on it to do. That, too, sounds so simple but it will take years to make the country even halfway stable - if it's possible at all. To instead close off the central Mediterranean route as well will not solve the refugee problem. It would be another disgrace for Europe.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Mission must be run under the European flag

The EU should take over the patronage and coordination of the naval mission, La Repubblica demands:

“This would be a success for European foreign policy and also a concrete act of solidarity with Italy, which is currently struggling to cope with almost 200,000 migrants per year. It would also be the best response to the accusations that Europe is blind and was only able to resolve the refugee crisis in Turkey because it was in Germany's interest, while Italy was left to cope on its own. And it would send a sign of hope to the EU's southern countries that Europe will be able to resolve international crises in future, at least in its part of the world. … The future of the European Union is at stake, and perhaps for once Europe's governments should take one of Donald Trump's slogans to heart: 'Europe first'.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Europe still too soft on people smugglers

De Morgen also calls for joint EU action but argues that it should focus less on military missions off the Libyan coast and more on political measures against the people smugglers in the country:

“The United Nations, Europol, and the various intelligence agencies know very well who is in charge of the Libyan smuggling networks. … And yet the pressure to mount a legal attack against them from Europe is minimal. Clearly, European politicians believe a new joint mission by the Italian navy and the Libyan coast guards has better chances of stopping the refugee boats. But this will no doubt be anything but an easy boat ride, particularly bearing in mind that one of the top commanders of the Libyan coast guards is also the boss of the main smuggling syndicate.”

HuffPost Italia (IT) /

Asylum seekers' last route being blocked

By intercepting refugee boats in Libyan waters Italy is violating the right to asylum, Huffington Post Italia rails:

“A clear example of propagandistic neocolonialism with the goal of reducing the flood of refugees in the Mediterranean to zero if possible. ... If the operation succeeds our government will be able to claim triumphantly that like in Turkey, the asylum seekers' last route of access has been closed, they can no longer reach Italy and can no longer be saved. What a victory! However, these boats aren't filled with people smugglers but with migrants. Where would the refugees who are sent back to Libya end up? In camps operated by militias. Centres where the worst acts of violence and torture are perpetrated.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Sending in the military won't be enough

For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the measure adopted by the parliament is just a drop in the ocean:

“The Italian military presence off the coast of Libya will make the smugglers' work more difficult. But it's not a solution. More is needed for that: Libya needs a government that is able to get things done; the activities of the smugglers and the NGOs must be stopped; in this rich country money could be invested in building a corridor between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Mediterranean coast where industries and jobs are created so that migrants settle there.”