Operation Sophia is a European Union military operation in the southern central Mediterranean to combat human trafficking networks, prevent irregular migration flows and prevent more people from dying at sea.
The operation aims to combat and disrupt the business model set up by human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Mediterranean and to help reduce the potential loss of life at sea as a result. As secondary objectives, it supports the implementation of the arms embargo on Libya, imposed by UNSCR 2292, and carries out the training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy.
This is a clear example of the European Union´s comprehensive response to the phenomenon of migration, which seeks to address not only its physical component, but also the roots, including conflict, poverty, climate change and persecution. it is not a blockade of North Africa or an operation against Libya. All activities are carried out in accordance with international law and under the legality of UN Security Council Resolution 2240.
The operation is designed in four phases. The last phase is reserved for the withdrawal or forces and the completion of the operation.
Spain contributes with the following measures:
- Tactical Air Detachment (DAT), equipped with a maritime patrol aircraft, currently a D-4 VIGMA, deployed at Sigonella Air Base (Sicily, Italy). Currently the 10th Contingent of the Detachment, called 'Grappa', is deployed.
- The frigate ´Numancia´ has a crew of 215 members and an Airborne Unit composed of an AB-212 helicopter.
Along with the aforementioned resources, Spain has supported the Operation by deploying a total of 8 people in the OHQ in Rome and 3 in the FHQ.
Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/1778 of 18 May 2015 launched the European Union military operation in the southern central Mediterranean (EUNAVFORMED), which was launched on 22 June 2015.
The Spanish contribution to EUNAVFORMED was approved by Council of Ministers Agreement of 10 July 2015.
On 5 October 2015, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2240 (2015) authorising Member States to seize vessels used in the smuggling and illegal trafficking of human beings from Libya.
On 20 June 2016, the Council of the European Union agreed to extend the operarion´s mandate by one year and to add, while remaining focused on its core mandate, two new support tasks:
· Capacity building and training for the Libyan coast guard and navy.
· The implementation of the United Nations arms embargo on the xoast of Libyan in accordance with a new United Nations Security Council resolution.
In this regard, the United Nations Security Council adopted UNSCR 2292 (2016) on the arms embargo on Libya.
On 23 August, the Commander of the Operation signed, together with the Commander of the Libyan Coast Guard, the Memorandum of Understanding to carry out training activities for the Libyan Coast Guard units.
18th April 2015 saw the largest loss of immigrant and refugee lives in the Mediterranean Sea when a fishing boat with more than 800 people sank off the coast of Libya. This tragedy demanded intervention from the International Community, particularly the European Union.
Consequently, only two days later, in an extraordinary summit regarding migration, the European Union Council for Foreign Affairs agreed to strengthen efforts in the fight against human trafficking and in EU actions in saving lives at sea and offer greater support to the countries on the front lines of this issue, sharing the resettlement of refugees.
To do this, a ten-point plan on irregular immigration was agreed upon. The development of the second point of this plan led to the EUNAVFORMED Operation SOPHIA.
On 23rd April 2015, the European Council underlined that “the Union will mobilise all efforts required to avoid further loss of human lives at sea, to tackle the root of this human emergency in the Mediterranean -in co-operation with the countries of origin and transit- and to fight against smugglers and human traffickers”.
On 18th May, the Council passed the Crisis Management Concept for a military mission under the Common Security and Defence Policy, with the goal of disrupting smuggling and human trafficking networks in the Southern area of the Central Mediterranean. (Decision 2015/778 18th May 2015).
· January 21. The 14th Spanish contingent took over at Sigonella air base. The contingent is made up of 39 people from different units of the Air Force.
· September 19. The 13th contingent begun its mission under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Guillermo Jesús Cordero Enríquez
· May 16. Handover of the XII contingent from the “Grappa” detachment.
· March 31. BAM RAYO returns to its Military Base, after the EU decision on withdrawing vessels from this operation.
· February 19. The Spanish frigate (F-84) Reina Sofía is replaced by the Meteoro-class offshore patrol vessel (BAM in Spanish) RAYO.
· January 16. Handover of the XI contingent from the “Grappa” detachment.
· September 18. X contingent from the ”Grappa” detachment.
· May 18. The frigate “Santa María” is replaced by the frigate “Numancia” during the mission.
· February 15. Air detachment Grappa from the Spanish Air Force reaches 2,500 flight hours after operating during two and a half years.
· December 28. Extension of the current level of participation of 250 troops with a ship from the Spanish Navy and a surveillance aircraft or a maritime patrol from the Spanish Air Force, along with support to training the Libyan Coast Guard troops.
· September 1. Spain leads the EUNAVFORMED SOPHIA with the Combat Replenishment Ship (BAC in Spanish) “Cantabria”, which replaces “Victoria” frigate in the Operation. Its main mission is to struggle and break up the business model used by human traffickers in the Central Mediterranean.
· July 25: EU extends the command of the Operation EUNAVFORMED SOPHIA till 31st December 2018, by strengthening even more its role in struggling against human trafficking.
· October 26: Effective beginning of the on board training of ships assigned to the Mission for such purpose.
· September 6: The UE Political and Security Committee (PSC) approved the beginning of the activities to promote embargo on arms in Lybia, as agreed by the United Nations Security Council.
· August 30: The Political and Security Committee (PSC) approved the beginning of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy training.
· June 20: The Political and Security Committee (PSC) decided to extend for one more year the command of the mission EUNAVFOR MED by adding two new support tasks: Libyan Coast Guard and Navy training and capacity building, together with contribution to embargo on arms, as decreed by the United Nations Security Council.
· October 7. Transition to Phase 2 of the mission in international waters.
· July 15: The Spanish Congress of Deputies authorises Spanish participation in EUNADVFORMED mission.
· June 22: The EU approves the first phase of the mission, which consists on exchanging information and patrolling on the seas in order to identify traffickers.
· May 18: The European Council sets up an EU naval operation for breaking up the immigrant trafficking network towards the Mediterranean.
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