Hammond in migrant strategy meeting

Published: Monday 22nd June 2015 by The News Editor

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Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is meeting European counterparts to hammer out a strategy for tackling the flow of migrants to the continent from Africa.

The gathering in Luxembourg will consider how naval operations can be scaled up to prevent desperate migrants attempting the crossing with help from criminal gangs.

Yesterday Defence Secretary Michael Fallon warned that the EU must go beyond dealing with the “symptoms” of the crisis and tackle its roots in Africa.

The UK’s aid budget would be used to help stabilise the countries people were fleeing from.

“At the moment we are simply dealing with the symptoms of the problem, helping to rescue people in the Mediterranean,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.

“There has got to be a much more comprehensive approach tackling the problem much further back.

“We have to break the link between rescuing people from the Mediterranean and settlement, because they will keep coming if they think they are going to be settled.”

“We can use our overseas aid budget, and this is where it should be used, to help stabilise some of these countries and discourage this kind of mass migration from them.”

With GCHQ – Britain’s listening post in Cheltenham – said to be tracking the activities of smuggling gangs moving people to the Libyan coast, Mr Fallon indicated he wanted to see more intelligence sharing.

“It is a European problem now, perhaps half a million people trying to cross this year. We know already the traffickers are ringing the Italian coastguard and telling them when the boats are setting off,” he said.

Asked whether the EU could consider a naval blockade of the northern coast of Africa, the Cabinet minister replied: “That is a matter for Europe to look to see. It is a very long coast.

“That is a difficult operation. I think what is more important is to pool the intelligence we have to go much further back in Africa.”

Britain is deploying survey vessel HMS Enterprise to the region to take over from HMS Bulwark early next month. A British Merlin helicopter will continue taking part in operations.

The UK has not signed up to controversial proposals from the European Commission to redistribute tens of thousands of asylum seekers who have arrived in Italy and Greece to other countries.

Published: Monday 22nd June 2015 by The News Editor

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