EU’s Operation Sophia has claimed the arrest of some 150 traffickers, and rescued 45,000 people since its launch in 2015 [File: Juan Medina/Reuters]

The European Union has announced it will suspend maritime patrols that have rescued thousands of refugees and asylum seekers attempting the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. 

The decision on Wednesday followed deep resistance from Italy, where the anti-migrant government said it would no longer receive those rescued at sea.

Instead, the new agreement on Operation Sophia, the EU mission to reduce people-smuggling in the Mediterranean, will rely on extended air patrols and close coordination with Libya, the main point of departure by sea for refugees and migrants seeking to cross from North Africa to Europe. 

Sophia’s mandate was due to expire

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