EU targets human traffickers

In a new operation launched by the European Union, Wednesday, officials aim to intercept those attempting to smuggle people on the Mediterranean Sea. This effort is made to prevent future deaths amidst the ongoing migrant and refugee crisis going on in Europe.

USA Today reports that Operation Sophia gives Navy personnel the ability to board, search, seize, and reroute boats thought to be used for smuggling or trafficking people. They will be permitted to do this in international waters that are at least 12 miles from the coast of Libya. Many refugees are coming from Eritrea and Sudan and heading toward Italy.

The operation is based on an Italian aircraft carrier, which will be home to warships from France, Germany, Spain, and Britain. The ship will also house multiple planes and helicopters.

The first phase of the operation was launched back in June, and was called EUNAVFOR. At that time, the operation focused on monitoring networks meant for smuggling and trafficking.

According to the International Organization for Migration, over 520,000 migrants and refugees arrived by sea, to Europe this year. This number is almost double that of 2014. The majority landed in Italy, while some journeyed from Turkey to Greece.

Over 2,000 migrants have either drowned or gone missing in the Mediterranean sea, this year. Deaths are also increasing in the Aegean Sea, where Syrians are departing from Turkey.

German and French leaders raised trafficking issues during a rare mutual address, Wednesday. It marked the first time a German chancellor and French president issued a joint address, since shortly after the Berlin wall fell.

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