The EU’s naval mission to combat people-trafficking off the Libyan coast is “failing” and has only succeeded in forcing smugglers to change their tactics, a British parliamentary report said on Friday. Operation Sophia “does not in any meaningful way deter the flow of refugees, disrupt the smugglers’ networks or impede the business of people-smuggling on the central Mediterranean route”, it said. The EU insisted that the British report “applauds the huge contribution of the EU operation” and said it had helped to reduce the incentive for people-trafficking. The report by the House of Lords’ sub-committee on European Union External Affairs noted that arrests so far have been of “low-level targets”, and the destruction of vessels has caused smugglers to shift from using wooden boats to rubber dinghies, which are even more unsafe. A naval mission cannot disrupt the business model of people-smuggling, and in this sense it is failing Committee chairman Lord Tugendhat The committee said there was “little prospect of Operation Sophia overturning the business model of people-smuggling”. Committee chairman Lord Tugendhat said the mission to patrol an area six times larger than Italy “was always going to present an enormous challenge”. “Our report stresses that the operation is succeeding in carrying out its separate search and rescue obligations, which is to be commended,” he said. “However, a naval mission cannot disrupt the business model of people-smuggling, and in this sense it is failing.” In Brussels, an EU spokeswoman said: “The report applauds the huge contribution of the EU operation to its search and rescue obligations at sea after less than one year of activity.” The spokeswoman said Operation Sophia had saved 13,740 lives including more than 850 children, contributed to the arrest of 69 suspected smugglers and neutralised 114 vessels. “This is a substantial achievement in such short period of time,” the spokeswoman said. “We are now looking at ways for the operation to be even more effective, building on these achievements.” EU sources meanwhile said member state officials had agreed to extend Operation Sophia for another year from June and that it should take on additional tasks, including helping train the Libyan coastguard and navy. To do that however would require a request from the Libyan authorities, they said. The EU naval operation is currently limited to international waters but the original plan was for it to extend into Libyan territorial waters to tackle people smugglers at source, by force if necessary. This however was also conditional on a formal request from an accepted Libyan central government. The recent formation of a UN-backed national administration has raised hopes that the situation is changing but its officials have been reluctant to invite in the EU for fear of being seen as overly dependent on outsiders.