Even as hundreds of African migrants continued to be rescued off the Mediterranean sea, migrants leaving Libya to Europe via Italy now risk being turned back after the deployment of a European Union naval force in the Mediterranean.
This was announced by British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday, adding that part of the mission’s work was to return boats back to shore after they had put to sea.
Johnson said part of the mission’s work was to return boats back to shore after they had put to sea.
“I think personally (the boats) should be turned back as close to the shore as possible so they don’t reach the Italian mainland and that there is more of a deterrent,” Johnson said, speaking alongside his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni.
“I think I am right in saying we have turned back about 200,000 migrants,” Johnson said, before a nearby diplomat hastily corrected him. “Sorry, saved, saved. Thank you. We have saved 200,000 migrants and turned back 240 boats.”
The European Union launched Operation Sophia in 2015 in response to the crisis, with a mandate to disrupt the people trafficking networks and destroy smugglers’ boats.
Italy is on the frontline of Europe’s migrant crisis, taking in more than 400,000 refugees over the past three years.
Migration is expected to be one of the main topics as EU leaders meet in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia on Friday .