- Mounts Bay, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel, is expected to start operations
- It will pass information to Turkish coastguards so they can intercept boats
- Two UK Border Force cutters will be sent as part of international response
- Downing Street said the PM will call for efforts to ‘smash’ trafficking gangs
Britain is sending a naval ship to the Aegean to strengthen efforts to smash people-smuggling gangs exploiting the migration crisis.
Mounts Bay, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel that carries a Wildcat helicopter, is expected to start operations in the coming days, spotting smugglers taking migrants from Turkey to Greece.
It will pass the information to Turkish coastguards so they can intercept the boats.
To the rescue: Mounts Bay, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel, is expected to start operations in the coming days
Two UK Border Force cutters will also be sent as part of the international response to reduce the flow of migrants from Turkey.
Around 1,800 migrants a day arrived in Greece last month, contributing to a total of 116,000 so far this year.
The Prime Minister will use an EU summit today to call on the international community to work together on the issue.
‘This migration crisis is the greatest challenge facing Europe,’ David Cameron said last night.
‘Britain has not faced anywhere near the scale of migrants coming to Europe as other countries because we are out of Schengen (the EU border-free zone) and retain control of our borders.
‘But where we can help, we should. And we’ve got to break the business model of the criminal smugglers and stop the desperate flow of people crammed into makeshift vessels from embarking on a fruitless and perilous journey.’
Downing Street said the Prime Minister will call for efforts to ‘smash’ trafficking gangs and increase the rate at which illegal migrants are sent back.
Two UK Border Force cutters will also be sent as part of the international response to reduce the flow of migrants from Turkey
Meanwhile, it can be revealed today that a British civilian boat sent to help in the migrant crisis has picked up more than 6,000 refugees in the past four months. VOS Grace was chartered by the Home Office amid a shortage of patrol boats and crew to secure Britain’s coastline. Officials even had to borrow Royal Marines from the Ministry of Defence to man the vessel.
The Mail can reveal today that the vessel – which will join Mounts Bay and the two Border Force cutters – has picked up 6,017 migrants making the journey from Libya and delivered them to European ports.
The latest figure brings the total number of migrants picked up by Britain since May last year to 15,434.
However, the figures, released only after a request by the Daily Mail, set off a row about Britain’s naval capabilities.
Former Navy chief Lord West said: ‘Why haven’t they celebrated the fact we are saving migrants? They don’t want us to know about this because we are using what should be used to defend British waters.
‘They’re using Royal Marines on a civilian vessel because there aren’t enough Royal Navy ships (and) there aren’t enough Border Force patrol boats.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel, which carries a Wildcat helicopter (pictured), will pass the information to Turkish coastguards so they can intercept the boats (file photo)
‘We should be proud that our men and women are rescuing people that are going to drown, but who is left to look after the UK borders?’
A source at the Home Office admitted: ‘This isn’t something that we have talked that openly about.’
Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, said: ‘While welcoming the success of the missions so far in saving lives, the fact we have hired this vessel raises questions about the long-term capabilities of UK Border Force.
‘It should be able to deploy its own systems to protect our borders and interests rather than having to charter ships.’
Sir Gerald Howarth, a former defence minister, said: ‘This gives migrants the expectation that if they get into trouble they will be rescued by the British taxpayer.
‘We must not encourage people to come to Europe and to Britain. This has got to stop.’
Immigration minister James Brokenshire said: ‘I am proud of the contribution the UK is playing to support search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean. This includes the Border Force chartered vessel VOS Grace.’
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