Italy approves anti-trafficking mission

More than 93,000 have arrived in Italy in 2017 so far — an increase of 17 percent on the same period last year | Chris McGrath  Getty Images

More than 93,000 have arrived in Italy in 2017 so far — an increase of 17 percent on the same period last year | Chris McGrath Getty Images

He said the mission would help the Libyan authorities reinforce their capacity to control their borders and national territory.

After a meeting in Rome with Sarraj on Wednesday, Gentiloni announced the government was considering a formal request from the GNA to send naval ships into Libyan territorial waters to help fight human trafficking and said he the plan would be debated by Italy's parliament next week - remarks that appeared to have concerned Tripoli.

In an earlier statement, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj said his administration had agreed to receive only training and arms from Italy, but said: "Libya's national sovereignty is a red line that nobody must cross".

The mission would contribute, Mr Gentiloni told the cabinet meeting, to Libya's "path of stabilisation... and Italy feels it a duty to participate".

Libyan officials have said the coastguard need far more equipment than that supplied to date, however. In recent years, the great majority of boat migrants arriving in Europe have landed in Italy.

It was noted that the Italian naval and air deployment would consist of almost 700 soldiers.

In its statement, the 15-member Council praised "recent efforts to strengthen an inclusive political dialogue among all Libyans, supported by Libya's neighbours, global partners and regional organizations".

Details of the operation, including rules of engagement, were not disclosed following the Cabinet's approval, but Gentiloni said Italy would not "be sending a huge fleet or air squadrons". "It is not an operation that we take against Libya sovereignty".

Italy wants to global organizations such as the UNHCR and the IOM to work in Libya to make sure migrants are treated humanely.

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