EUNAVFOR MED operation Sophia is but one element of a broader EU comprehensive response to the migration issue, which seeks to address not only its physical component, but also its root causes as well including conflict, poverty, climate change and persecution. The mission core mandate is to undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and enabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers, in order to contribute to wider EU efforts to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean and prevent the further loss of life at sea. Since 7 October 2015, as agreed by the EU Ambassadors within the Security Committee on 28 September, the operation moved to phase 2 International Waters, which entails boarding, search, seizure and diversion, on the high seas, of vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling or trafficking. Last 20 June 2016, the Council extended until 27 July 2017 Operation Sophia’s mandate reinforcing it by adding two supporting tasks:
  • training of the Libyan coastguards and navy;
  • contributing to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya.
On 30 August and on 6 September 2016, the PSC authorized the commencement of the capacity building and training and the commencement of the contributing to the implementation of the UN arms embargo. EUNAVFOR MED operation Sophia is designed around 4 phases:
  • the first consists of the deployment of forces to build a comprehensive understanding of smuggling activity and methods, and this phase is now complete;
  • phase two foresees the boarding, search, seizure and diversion of smugglers' vessels on the high seas under the conditions provided for by applicable international law. This activity will be extended into Territorial Waters upon the release of any applicable United Nation Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) and the concerned coastal State consent;
  • the third phase expands this activity further; up to and including taking operational measures against vessels and related assets suspected of being used for human smuggling or trafficking inside the coastal states territory. Once again, this is subject to the necessary legal framework established by UNSCR and following coastal state consent;
  • finally, the fourth and last phase will consist of withdrawal of forces and completion of the operation.
The European Council is responsible for assessing whether the conditions for transition between the operation phases have been met. On legal side, all of the activities undertaken in each phase adhere to and respect international law, including human rights, humanitarian and refugee law and the “non refoulement” principle meaning that no rescued persons can be disembarked in a third country.


European Council (20 June 2016):
  • training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy;
  • to contribute to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya according to UNSCR 2292 (2016) and UNSCR 2357 (2017).
European Council (25 July 2017):
  • to set up a monitoring mechanism of the long-term efficiency of the training of the Libyan Coastguard and Navy;
  • to conduct new surveillance activities and gather information on illegal trafficking of oil exports from Libya in accordance UNSCR 2146 (2014) and 2362 (2017);
  • to enhance the possibility for sharing information on human trafficking with member states law enforcement agencies, FRONTEX and EUROPOL.


Sophia is a baby who was born on 24 August 2015 at 04.15 am on board the German frigate Schleswig-Holstein, operating in the Central Mediterranean Sea as part of EUNAVFOR MED Task Force. Born from a Somali mother rescued together with other 453 migrants and disembarked on the evening of the same day in the harbour of Taranto, Sophia was named after the German ship dedicated to the Prussian princess Sophia of Schleswig-Holstein (8 April 1866 - 28 April 1952).
I will suggest to Member States that we change the name of our Operation: instead of calling it EUNAVFOR MED, I suggest we use the name: Sophia. To honour the lives of the people we are saving, the lives of people we want to protect, and to pass the message to the world that fighting the smugglers and the criminal networks is a way of protecting human life
Federica Mogherini
Rome 24th september 2015
EUNAVFOR MED operation Sophia Operational Headquarters