The EU extended the mandate of the Operation 'Sophia' naval mission to counter human smuggling and trafficking in the Mediterranean, the Council of the EU announced in a 28 March press release. The mandate will last another six months from 31 March, but an EU official told Jane's on 27 March that patrols by EU Naval Force - Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med) warships will be suspended.
However, the operation's air patrols and support of the Libyan coastguard and navy will continue, the official said.
The 26-nation EUNAVFOR Med is already down to two ships, the Italian Navy's ITS Luigi Rizzo Fregata Europea Multi Missione (FREMM) general purpose frigate and the Spanish Navy's ESPS Rayo offshore patrol vessel, after Germany withdrew the frigate Augsburg at the beginning of February.
It also operates seven aircraft: a French Falcon 50, a Polish Antonov An-28B1R, two Luxembourg SW3 Merlin IIIs, an Italian NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopter, and a Spanish CN-235 Vigma D-4 and AB-212 helicopter.
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