As part of the UK’s ongoing contribution to Frontex search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean this winter, the Home Office has chartered a civilian vessel as part of vital efforts to save lives in the region.
The vessel, the VOS Grace, will deploy on Thursday 5th November until mid April with a detachment of Border Force officers, Royal Marines and a small medical team on board.
The ship was designed as an Emergency Response and Rescue Vessel and will have a full search and rescue capability, operating alongside the Italian Coast Guard, Guardia di Finanza and ships from many other EU Member States.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said:
The UK is playing a leading role in tackling people smuggling and increasing joint intelligence work to target the cruel gangs that exploit human beings for their own gain.
Our Border Force cutters did a vital job in the Mediterranean over the summer, saving over 1,650 lives and intercepting 26 suspected people smugglers.
This larger, chartered vessel marks the next step in our contribution to Frontex, and with the generally poorer weather in the Mediterranean over the winter months, represents a more operationally effective contribution which will save many lives. The law enforcement expertise of Border Force is invaluable in targeting potential people smugglers, and with the added protection of the Royal Marines, the deployment will play a key role in tackling the dire situation in the region.
Two Border Force cutters returned to the UK in September following the end of a five month deployment agreed with Frontex. The cutters were involved in the rescue of 1650 people in total.