No British support for Mediterranean migrant rescues

Britain will not support planned EU operations to save migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea as minister says saving people encourages others to risk voyage

No British support for Mediterranean migrant rescues

World Bulletin/News Desk

Britain will not support any future search and rescue operations to prevent migrants and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, claiming they simply encourage more people to attempt the dangerous sea crossing, Foreign Office ministers have quietly announced.

According to the Guardian report, refugee and human rights organisations reacted with anger to the official British refusal to support a sustained European search and rescue operation to prevent further mass migrant drownings, saying it would contribute to more people dying needlessly on Europe’s doorstep.

The British refusal comes as the official Italian sea and rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, is due to end this week after contributing over the past 12 months to the rescue of an estimated 150,000 people since the Lampedusa tragedies in which 500 migrants died in October 2013.

A limited joint EU Mediterranean operation "Triton" is due to begin in November, which will help but not replace "continued substantial efforts" by Italian authorities, according to the European Commission.

Human rights organisations have raised fears that more migrants and refugees will die in their attempt to reach Europe from the north African coast.

The Home Office told the Guardian the government was not taking part in Operation Triton at present beyond providing one “debriefer” – a single immigration officer – to gather intelligence about the migrants who continue to make the dangerous journey to Italy.

Other EU countries have responded to the call for help with two fixed-wing aircraft and three patrol vessels.


Meanwhile, British Defence Minister Michael Fallon said on Monday he had been careless to talk of towns being "swamped" by immigrants after political rivals accused him and the ruling Conservatives of using irresponsible language to get re-elected next year.

Under growing pressure from the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) ahead of a May 2015 national election, Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives have said they want to try to curb immigration from the European Union if re-elected - a move Brussels says would infringe the right to free movement.

UKIP, which wants Britain to leave the EU, has put immigration at the centre of its election campaign after Cameron's party promised but failed to get annual net migration down to the tens of thousands from the hundreds of thousands.

Fallon said on Sunday the government was considering curbing the number of EU citizens allowed to work in Britain in order "to prevent whole towns and communities being swamped by huge numbers of migrants". He said that parts of the country felt "under siege" from migrant workers.

The word "swamped" is seen as particularly emotive, having being used by then-Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher in 1978 in the context of wanting to cut immigration from former British colonies. Thatcher served as prime minister from 1979 to 1990.

Fallon said on Monday he had misspoken and used words he would not usually have used, but said the thrust of his remarks had been correct.

"I was a bit careless with my words, I accept that," Fallon told Sky News.

"(But) there are a large number of people coming here from the rest of Europe. This is one of the more successful economies in Europe and there's pressure as a result of that migration on social services, on housing, on school places."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 28 Ekim 2014, 11:19