The first stage of the EU operation to stop smugglers bringing refugees from North Africa to Europe began in late June. On July 27, the operation reached full operational capability.
The first phase focused on collecting information on human traffickers, using vessels and aircraft deployed in international waters. The second phase of the naval operation authorizes boarding, search, seizure and diversion of ships found to be used for human trafficking.
The International Organization for Migration estimates that over 560,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe since the beginning of 2015. Almost 3,000 people are reported to have died or gone missing en route.
Later in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are expected to deliver a joint announcement at a full European Parliament session in Strasbourg, touching upon the EU refugee crisis.