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EU Confirms Mission to Counter Migrant Traffickers Ready for First Stage

According to EU Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic, the EU naval mission against people that smuggle migrants from North Africa to Europe has reached full operational capability for its first stage.

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BRUSSELS (Sputnik) — The EU naval mission directed against gangs that smuggle migrants from North Africa to Europe has reached full operational capability for its first stage, EU Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said at a briefing Wednesday.

"I would like to confirm that EUNAVFOR [European Union Naval Force] Med mission was declared this week that it has reached the fully operational capability. This is for phase one only," Kocijancic said.

The spokeswoman did not specify when a political decision to enter the mission's second phase would be taken.

EU foreign ministers agreed to launch the EUNAVFOR Med operation in late June, after EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini unveiled the initiative in May.

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During the first stage of the mission, vessels and aircraft will be deployed in the international waters from where they will gather information on human traffickers. Subsequent stages involve searches and potential seizures of suspicious ships.

The European Union has been struggling to cope with an immigration crisis in the Mediterranean, as a record number — 137,000 — of undocumented migrants managed to cross the sea to Europe in the first six months of 2015, according to UN estimates.

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