A surge in the number of crossings in the Mediterranean is being noticed, pointing towards an increase in human trafficking, Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela has warned. 

Speaking during a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, Mr Abela said a reduction in EU military surveillance in the central Mediterranean was making smugglers and traffickers more daring. 

In a statement, the Foreign Minister said Mr Abela sounded the alarm bell on the absence of EU naval assets in the Mediterranean brought about security risks. 

The EU set up Operation Sophia in 2015 in a bid to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the southern central Mediterranean and prevent the further loss of migrants’ lives at sea.

Mr Abela said the aerial operations being conducted as part of Operation Sophia are relatively ineffective to break the smugglers’ models. 

The foreign minister said the surge in the number of crossings raised the risk of more tragedies in the Mediterranean.

Mr Abela insisted a reinforcements of aerial surveillance is warranted in the central Mediterranean route, even during the early mornings, when most of the departures happen, at least over the summer period. 

He stressed that this being an EU-wide challenge, it is only through solidarity, as well as through a combined effort and responsibility-sharing by all stakeholders, that it can be addressed.

The statement said foreign ministers also discussed ways to improve the effectiveness of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

Noting that, over the past years, the CFSP has been strengthened considerably, Minister Abela suggested that the EU should make better use of its leverage when it comes to interacting with third countries.