The Italian government has decided to extend Operation Sophia, the European mission to fight illegal immigration in the Mediterranean, for three months.

Operation Sophia, the European mission led by Italy to fight illegal immigration, will be extended for three months in order to allow for continued negotiations with other European countries. The extension will also enable Italy to follow up on the changes it requested: rotating ports of disembarkation, with the division of rescued migrants to other EU member states. […]

Government mediation

The mission’s mandate expires on December 31, and last week Salvini was clear in his intentions. „We firmly maintain our unwillingness towards disembarkation procedures that provide for docking only in Italian ports (…) Without consensus on our positions, we do not feel it is appropriate to continue the mission.“ Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta, however, wished to avoid a brusque closure of the mission. To this end, Conte convened the meeting at Chigi Palace with the relevant ministers in order to mediate an agreement. Trenta presented a cost-benefit analysis that showed Italy would have to shoulder an additional 130-140 million euros annually to carry out tasks it currently handles as the head of the EU mission. 

The point was also raised that Salvini’s concern over docking at only Italian ports has by now taken on a nearly insignificant dimension. In addition, the possible year-end closure of Operation Sophia could facilitate another country, such as France, making a proposal for a new mission that would not be led by Italy. The end of the mission could also have repercussions on the cooperation strategy with Libya, a key partner for Italian national interests. The arguments in favor of the mission persuaded Salvini and led Conte to propose a three-month extension for negotiations aimed at achieving Italy’s proposed conditions.

InfoMigrants | 11.12.2018

„Italy extends Operation Sophia for three months“