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Italy moving quickly on plan to deploy ships to Libya

AFP , Thursday 27 Jul 2017
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni gestures as he speaks during a joint press conference with Libya's UN-backed Prime Minister, following their meeting at Palazzo Chigi, in Rome, on July 26, 2017 (Photo: AFP)
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An Italian government plan to deploy vessels in Libyan territorial waters to help fight human trafficking will be presented to parliament early next week, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Thursday.

He said the cabinet was "discussing the details" of a request from Tripoli for help and "will present them on Tuesday", adding that he was "sure parliament will vote in favour".

Libya's UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has appealed to Italy to send ships into Libyan waters to help combat a phenomenon which has seen thousands of migrants set sail across the Mediterranean to Europe.

The European Union has an anti-trafficking operation dubbed "Sophia" that was launched in 2015, but its vessels have not been permitted to enter Libyan waters, severely complicating their task.

Traffickers have been known to accompany migrant boats some way out to sea, but they stop within Libyan waters.

A flagship Italian command ship, at least five smaller vessels and up to 1,000 soldiers could be dispatched to help support the Libyan coastguard in the battle against smugglers, the Corriere della Sera reported Thursday.

Italy is also considering using planes, helicopters and drones, it said.

Close to 94,000 people have been brought to safety in Italy so far this year, according to Italy's interior ministry, an increase of more than five percent compared to the same period last year.

More than 2,370 people have died since January attempting the perilous crossing, the UN refugee agency said.

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