Operation Safe Seas: Italian Efforts to Deal with At Sea Migrants


2016-01-07 There have been roughly one million migrants which have entered Europe from land and sea during 2015.


In an earlier interview, the challenge of migration to Europe and the role of Italy was discussed in terms of how best to handle the challenge.

During a visit to Italy at the end of September, the migration crisis was discussed with two members of the foreign policy think tank Centro Studie Internazionali (Ce.S.I.) in Rome. 

Francesco Tosato is a senior researcher responsible within the Institute to analyze military affairs; and Miguel Taufer works with Tosato in providing assessment of military developments. 

We focused primarily on the military response to the challenge, but broadened the discussion to the broader issues involved in shaping a comprehensive policy as well.

The analysts highlighted that European naval forces had been mobilized to deal with the illegal boat migrations with the clear objective of trying to break the effectiveness of the business model of the smugglers. 

“In 2013, Italy launched Operation Mare Nostrum to deal with search, rescue and enforcement efforts with regard to sea-borne migration. 


Italy sought from the outset to set in motion a broader European operation.

And this has happened as Mare Nostrum led to the engagement of Frontex which is the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union. 

But the limits of Frontex is that it operates only within national boundaries.”

Question: Italy has spearheaded as well a broader European naval effort.

Could you discuss that effort? 

Answer: Italy has worked for a broader European naval effort with EUNAVFOR MED in operation Sophia. 

This is an operation that is organized by the European Union that uses military vessels that are more capable and are operating in the off of Libyan coast.

The command post for the operation is onboard the Italian aircraft carrier, the Cavour. 

The British have recently sent a frigate to the operation and more air assets are now involved to enhance the situational awareness picture. 

The purpose of the operation in part is to deter smugglers from operating their illegal practice. 

The aim is to break the business model of the smugglers. 

In late December, the Italian Minister of Defense visited the Italian destroyer Caio Duilio to highlight the effort to deal with migration by sea.

According to an article on the Italian Ministry of Defense website:

Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti, accompanied by the  Chief of Staff of the Navy, Admiral Giuseppe De Giorgi, has delivered her holiday greetings to the Navy personnel engaged in Operation Safe Seas. 

During the Minister’s visit the Operation Commander, Rear Admiral Pierpaolo Ribuffo, illustrated Safe Seas’ outcomes and the current operational situation in the area of responsibility. 

Besides delivering her Christmas and New Year’s greetings, the Defence Minister thanked the Navy for saving over 200,000 human lives from the beginning of the migration emergency, and expressed her gratitude to the crews of all naval units engaged in Operation Safe Seas….

Credit Photos: Italian Ministry of Defense