ROME, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- The Italian parliament on Wednesday gave its approval to a naval mission off Libya to help tackle human trafficking and limit migrant flows.
Both lower house and senate voted in favor of the mission that was approved by Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni's cabinet last Friday.
Italian navy's ships would be operating in Libyan waters to provide logistical, technical, and operational support to the Libyan coast guard, according to Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti.
The decision followed a specific request by the UN-backed Libyan government in Tripoli, Italian authorities said last week. "Our role will be to help Libyans in their (migrant) rescue activities, and in tackling human traffickers," Pinotti told defense and foreign affairs parliamentary committees on Tuesday.
Italian ships would operate on the base of the needs expressed by Libyan authorities, through joint and coordinated activities, the minister said. "There will be no interference, nor wound to the Libyan sovereignty: if anything, our goal is to boost such sovereignty," Pinotti said. It was still unclear how many vessels Italy would send.
The defense minister, however, specified the units involved would be those already deployed in the central Mediterranean within the "Safe Sea" search and rescue operation launched in 2015.
The mission was part of the Italian government's wider effort to tackle migrant trafficking and limit the inflow of people fleeing poverty and war from Africa and the Middle East.
Italy has become the major point of entry for those trying to reach Europe, through the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean from the Libyan shores, since after the Balkan route was closed in early 2016.
Italy also drafted a "code of conduct" for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating rescue vessels in the Mediterranean, whose role has grown increasingly crucial in saving the life of migrants and refugees, due to the endless flow of departures from Libya.
The government asked at least eight major NGOs to accept the new rules, including a ban to enter Libyan waters to rescue migrant boats in distress, and to allow armed police officers on board to search for possible smugglers hiding among migrants.