20% fall in migrants from Libya: EU naval force

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    Illegal migrants from Africa sit on a Libyan coastguard boat as they arrive at a naval base in Tripoli after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, off the Libyan coast, on August 28, 2017

    Illegal migrants from Africa sit on a Libyan coastguard boat as they arrive at a naval base in Tripoli after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, off the Libyan coast, on August 28, 2017

    The number of illegal migrants leaving Libya for Europe has fallen by 20 percent so far in 2017, the European naval force charged with stopping people trafficking in the Mediterranean said Thursday.

    “We have seen a drop in the number of people leaving Libya for Europe this year, around 20 percent,” Enrico Credendino, commander of the force, told a news conference aboard the Cantabria ship at the port of La Goulette, near Tunis.

    Summer saw a drop of 75 percent compared with the same period in 2016, with the number dying at sea falling by 60 percent, said the head of the EU’s anti-trafficking operation dubbed Sophia.

    The decrease was explained in particular by the support given to the Libyan coastguard, which received four Italian patrol boats and training.

    “With the training we have done, they are now able to more effectively patrol territorial waters, fight all types of crime and also save lives,” the commander said.

    The EU ambassador to Tunis, Patrice Bergamini, called on Tunisia to help neighbouring Libya with its “know-how” on migration in support of Operation Sophia.

    The European Union launched the anti-smuggling operation in 2015 after two shipwrecks killed 1,200 migrants in April that year.

    The operation, which claims to have intercepted 117 smugglers and seized 482 of their ships, has been criticised for failing to effectively stop the smugglers.

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