Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Tajani announced that two boats will be donated to the Libyan Coast Guard, to combat irregular migration.
“We are increasing assistance to the Libyan Coast Guard. After we handed it a patrol boat recently, we will deliver two more boats (to the Libyans) in the next few days,” the Italian top diplomat said in an interview on Thursday.
Tajani pointed out that the boats will help the Libyan Coast Guard to “prevent the departure of migrant boats.”
He noted the presence of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in the Mediterranean waters. But he added, “There is certainly a need for more European presence, and for a strong intervention to prevent departures, especially from Tunisia and Libya.”
Last month, Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Najla Al-Mangoush received the keys to the first patrol ship funded by Italy’s Visegrad Group. The ship is designed to curb people smuggling and patrol the Mediterranean shore.
On his part, the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood policy and enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi said that the 20-meter ship, able to carry 200 people, was the first to be fully funded by Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. The Visegrad Group pledged in 2017 to deliver four ships to Libyan Coast Guard.
The ships will help to “curb illegal migration across the sea, and to block a route which people smugglers and criminal organizations use to enrich themselves,” he said.
Tajani, who also attended the event, said Libya was a key starting point for illegal migrants in Europe.
In December, Tajani said that Rome was looking to provide police patrol boats to the Libyan Coast Guard, to stop human smugglers.
He pointed out that Italy “had always been ready to receive migrants, but it must guarantee the security of its borders, which are also the southern borders of the European Union.”
On Sunday, Italian lawmaker, Tommaso Foti claimed that “nearly 700,000 migrants are in Libya awaiting an opportunity to set out by sea toward Italy.”
In televised statements, the parliamentary whip from Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party said that “the Italian Secret Service estimated that 680,000 migrants were in Libya, many of them in detention camps. They are eager to sail across the central Mediterranean sea in smugglers’ boats,” according to The Associated Press (AP).