The European Union must give Libya more autonomy to deal with illegal immigration in the Mediterranean Sea, according to the navy chief in charge of policing the waters.
Speaking exclusively to Euronews, the head of Operation Irini, Admiral Fabio Agostini, said that the best way to stop migrants crossing to Europe is to prepare the Libyan Coast Guard and make them more autonomous.
"I believe that the best way to stop illegal immigration, to contribute to the dismantling of these human smuggling models, is to train the Libyan Coast Guard, the Navy, just because we need to let them be more autonomous in dealing with security issues in their water of responsibility," Agostini said.
"Unfortunately, at this moment, due to political stall, our task, this task, in particular, has not started. But we are confident that in the future, with the development of the situation in Libya, we can achieve some results in this field."
Operation Irini is the only EU operation that the 27-member bloc has in place in Libya, a country ravaged by 10 years of civil war.
Its main task is the implementation of the UN arms embargo through the use of aerial, satellite and maritime assets.
The admiral also told Euronews that the situation in the North African country was at a critical stage, which is why he was in Brussels this week to ask for an extension of the operation's mandate by two years.
"Libya is in a crucial phase now. There is a transitional government that should be established in the next few days. We are monitoring what's happening at sea, on-air and on land. We are ready for any kind of support from the international community, the warring parties," Agostini said.
A decision by member states on whether to extend Operation Irini's mandate is expected before the date of its expiry on March 31.