Italy Plans Sending Navy Units off Libyan Coasts to Curb Illegal Migration

Italy is planning to send ships in Libyan waters by the end of August to combat human trafficking and stem a huge influx of immigrants, a government source said on Thursday.

The announcement came after Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that the internationally recognized government in Tripoli requested in a letter Italy’s help through the deployment of its ships off Libyan costs to curb Mediterranean crossing of illegal embarkations.

Gentiloni who met his Libyan counterpart of the Tripoli-based GNA Fayez al-Sarraj in Rome earlier this week said that sending naval units is being assessed by the defense ministry.

On Thursday, Gentiloni met with military chiefs and cabinet members to discuss the possibility of sending elements of the Italian navy as part of the fight against illegal migration at sea.

This year alone, 100,000 migrants from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East have arrived in Europe, a 7 percent rise from the same period last year. More than 2,000 others have died attempting the treacherous voyage.

Nearly 600,000 migrants have arrived in Italy since 2014 after making the dangerous cross-Mediterranean journey in boats.

Italy wants to stop migrant boats in Libyan territorial waters and send the migrants back to Libya. Under international law, migrants intercepted in international waters cannot be sent back to Libya if they face potential violence and persecution.

At the domestic level, the increase of illegal migrants in Italy is becoming a thorny issue leading to harsh criticism against the center-left government by conservatives.

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