British warship HMS-Diamond will arrive off the Libyan coast in the coming days to stop and detain people smugglers as the number of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to get to Italy reaches record levels.
The move is to curb the flow of migrants comes at a time when Europe is stepping up efforts to tackle the crisis. Following the closure of the Greece border last year, the Libya-Italy route is being used by migrants to reach Europe.
The Type-45 destroyer, which is equipped with a 4.5in gun, fast-firing canon and missiles, will be a part of an EU flotilla – Operation Sophia. In June, a formal authorisation was given by Brussels to carry out the mission. The operation was widened last week to include intercepting weapons traffickers and training Libya's coastguard.
According to reports, people smugglers sent a record number of migrants last week via the sea. At least 13,000 people were rescued off the coast of Libya by rescue boats and Italian coastguard.
Initially the plan to send the British warship on the mission was disapproved by Crispin Blunt, the head of parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee.
He was quoted as saying, "The smugglers are taking advantage of the fact there is no coherent government in Libya. Until there is a political settlement in Libya that encourages a Libyan government to accept assistance in its territorial waters, I fail to see how this can be effective."
In May, a House of Lords report raised questions over Operation Sophia could ever deliver its mandate to stop people smugglers. The operation started last year and has so far focussed on gathering intelligence and rescue operations. Around 71 suspects have been arrested for people smuggling so far.
For months, changes to targeted interceptions have been delayed because the new Libyan government did not allow foreign warships to enter territorial waters or supply any of its own forces to deal with smugglers on land.
Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino, Commander of Operation Sophia had earlier warned that the warships could act in tandem, where in one would intercept smugglers, while the other could return fire. HMS Diamond will join HMS Enterprise, which rescued some 700 migrants last week.