Italy has been struggling to deal with a flood of migrants from Libya and has received little to no help from the EU. This has led to strife, as we pointed out in earlier posts.

Italy has now taken the proactive step of engaging its navy to intercept a non-government organization ship which was aiding migrants.

The AFP reports, via the Al Monitor:

Italy moves to end migrant crisis with NGO crackdown, naval mission

Italy on Wednesday dispatched a navy patrol boat to Libya and seized an NGO rescue ship in dramatic steps aimed at ending the migrant crisis that has engulfed Europe in recent years.

The twin moves came as new figures revealed a surprise drop in July in the number of mainly African asylum seekers and economic migrants arriving at the country’s southern ports, suggesting efforts to close the Libya-Italy route into Europe could finally be bearing fruit.

The Iuventa, a boat operated by German NGO Jugend Rettet, was “preventatively” impounded on the Italian island of Lampedusa on the orders of a prosecutor based in Trapani, Sicily, the state police force said.

“Enquiries begun in October 2016, and conducted with the use of sophisticated techniques and investigative technology, have produced circumstantial evidence of the motorboat Iuventa being used for activities facilitating illegal immigration,” a statement said.

More details were to be provided at a press conference later.

Earlier, the Italian parliament gave the go-ahead for a naval mission in support of the Libyan coastguard’s fight against the people traffickers behind the surge in migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

As part of the mission, approved by the Libyan authorities, the navy patrol boat Commandante Borsini entered the North African state’s territorial waters on Wednesday afternoon, en route for the capital Tripoli, the navy said.

On board was a small advance team charged with coordinating planned joint actions with the Libyan coastguard.

Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said Italy was providing technical support, not seeking to impose a “hostile” naval blockade designed to prevent the departure of migrant boats.

Here’s a short video report from Wochit News:

This report from Reuters stresses that Italy is actually working with Libya on this measure:

Italy begins naval mission to help Libya curb migrant flows

Italy began a limited naval mission on Wednesday to help Libya’s coastguard curb migrant flows, which have become a source of political friction before national elections expected early next year.

An Italian patrol boat entered Libyan waters and headed towards the port of Tripoli within minutes of a vote in Italy’s parliament authorizing the deployment. A second vessel was expected to join it in the coming days.

Italy announced the operation last week, saying it had been requested by Libya’s U.N.-backed government. It initially hoped to send six ships into Libyan territorial waters, but the plans had to be scaled back following protests from Tripoli.

“(We will) provide logistical, technical and operational support for Libyan naval vessels, helping them and supporting them in shared and coordinated actions,” Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

This is good news but only a first important step. Italy still needs greater support from other European nations and EU leadership which, so far, has been scarce.

Featured image via YouTube.

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