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EU military operation against human traffickers shifts to 'active' phase

EU military operation against human traffickers shifts to 'active' phaseAfter months spent gathering intelligence about people smuggling networks across the Mediterranean, an EU military operation will start stopping and seizing the boats attempting the risky journey.

EU members announced plans for the more assertive approach earlier this year amid a public outcry after a string of vessels carrying migrants to Europe from North Africa capsized en route, killing hundreds of people.

But analysts and rights groups have expressed skepticism over whether the new phase of the naval operation will do much good, especially for the desperate people trying to reach European shores.

"The operation is aimed at disrupting the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Mediterranean and to prevent the further loss of life at sea," EU member states said in a statement last week, announcing the shift to the "active phase" of the mission.

Starting Wednesday, sailors on EU naval vessels will "be able to board, search, seize and divert vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling or trafficking on the high seas," the statement said.

The operation is focused on the area of the Mediterranean north of Libya, from where some of the hundreds of thousands of migrants attempting to get to Europe this year have set out across the waves in the direction of Italy.

EU officials have renamed it "Operation Sophia" after the name given to a baby born on an EU ship that rescued her mother off the coast of Libya in August.

Europe is facing its biggest refugee and migrant crisis since World War II, with a large proportion of those trying to reach the continent's wealthier nations coming from war-torn Syria.

Source: CNN
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