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UK’s priority is to combat people smuggling

Amid migrant crisis, British mission in the Mediterranean is to go after criminal gangs responsible for people smuggling.

Antonia Filmer  London | 26th Sep 2015

With combating organised crime being a priority for the UK, the British mission in the Mediterranean is to go after the criminal gangs responsible for people smuggling there. The British Home Office is handling the migrant crisis, even though two British warships in the Mediterranean, HMS Enterprise and HMS Richmond are operating under MoD authority.

HMS Enterprise is assisted by the motor-launch Spitfire with air support from a Merlin helicopter. HMS Richmond will be deployed initially in international waters for two months and will actively pursue, board and seize vessels off the coast of Libya. Suspected traffickers will be taken to the nearest European port to be prosecuted in that country.

MI6 and the National Crime Agency have agents locally working with Europol to identify the leaders of the trafficking gangs and it is the government's strategy to sever the link between getting on a boat and settlement in Europe.

Previously, Her Majesty's Ship Bulwark appeared to be following a doctrine of do-no-harm, offering search and rescue, boarding and evacuation — providing the minimum commensurate with high moral values without offering the complete humanitarian package of political asylum, medical options and permanent sustenance. The concern is that the full package would just invite further pandemonium, manifested by the result following Angela Merkel's "invitation" to Germany. HMS Bulwark and HMS Enterprise have rescued thousands at sea and landed them safely to the nearest point of land, Italy, Greece, Spain, for those countries to process or to return to their country of origin.

The UK is participating with NATO, the European Union and the Mediterranean at large but there has been scant agreement in how to tackle the overwhelming influx of refugees from the chaos in the Middle East and North Africa. How to get EU unity and decide a joint purpose that satisfies all Parliaments, compassionate societies and nationalists is a conundrum. Not all EU member states are in agreement to differentiate between refugees from warzones and economic migrants. Then there is the added dilemma of how to filter out the small but lethal percentage that have malign radical intentions.

The first refugees arrived in UK this week to undisclosed locations, just after the EU imposed an unpopular quota of refugees on member states. Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic and Slovakia have not accepted the quota. Britain has an opt-out. Prime Minister David Cameron has accepted that 20,000 refugees from camps in Jordan and Lebanon may settle in Britain over this term of Parliament. The UK has donated £1billion in aid, UK's largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis. £60million funding will go to help the Syrians still in Syria. The rest is destined for the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. On 23 September, Cameron added an extra £100million to benefit Syrian refugee camps. £40 million of this will go to the underfunded World Food Programme. Cameron said, "We must make sure that people in refugee camps are properly fed, and looked after, not least to help them but also to stop people wanting to make or thinking of making this very, very difficult and very dangerous journey to Europe."

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