San Giusto Ship of EU naval operation in central Mediterranean docks at La Goulette Quay

The Italian military ship “L9894 San Giusto” docked on Monday at the quay of la Goulette port, in Tunis, for a two-day period. It docks for the first time in a Tunisian port.

This first visit is part of the European Union (EU) naval operation in the Mediterranean, called Eunavfor Med or “Sophia”, an operation to which Tunisia contributes as a partner.

EU ambassador to Tunisia, Patrick Bergamini, told a press briefing aboard the ship, that this military operation was launched on May 18, 2015 by the EU as part of a global solution to the common security and defence policy to combat smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean.

Rear-Admiral Enrico Credendino, commander of Operation Sophia, said that this is a mission whose main task is to undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and to neutralise ships and boats and the resources used or suspected of being used by smugglers or migrant traffickers.

According to a European Commission document dating back to October 2016, the aim of the operation is to contribute to the broader efforts of the EU to dismantle the economic model of human smuggling and trafficker networks in the EU South of the central Mediterranean and thus avoid any further loss of life at sea.

“All the activities undertaken as part of the Operation Sophia follow and fully respect international law, including human rights, humanitarian law, refugee law and the principle of non-refoulement”, the document reads.

According to the latest figures up to January 2017, the Sohpia operation resulted in the neutralisation of 432 boats, the arrest of 109 and the rescue of more than 36 thousand migrants.

The operation was assigned two new missions, namely the training of the Libyan coastguard and seamen and the control of the arms embargo imposed on Libya and the implementation of the United Nations arms embargo on Libya.

As for the first mission, a specific ship will be devoted to the training of about 100 officers and non-commissioned officers of the coastguard or the Libyan navy. “The latter will then be invited to take training on shore, in EU member state or a third country before being trained later on Libyan ships,” explained Enrico Credendino.

Moreover, in order to combat arms trafficking effectively, the operation field of the Sophia mission was extended to the height of the Libyan city of Derna, 200 km from Egypt. It now covers 80% of the Libyan coast, but is still limited to international waters, 12 miles away from the coast.

Initially named Eunavfor Med, the European operation took the name of a little girl named Sophia, born on August 24, 2015 aboard a German frigate which was crossing in the central Mediterranean as part of its European mission.

Sophia was born to a Somali mother rescued with 453 other migrants disembarked the same day at the port of Taranto. She received as surname the nickname given to the German ship in honour of the Princess of Prussia.


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