- Prime Minister announces UK naval ship Mounts Bay and Wildcat helicopter deployed to Aegean Sea as part of international response to migrant crisis
- Prime Minister calls on international community to act together and stem the flow of migrants making the perilous journey from Turkey to Greece
As the Prime Minister attends an EU summit on the migration crisis, the Royal Navy is deploying amphibious landing ship royal fleet auxiliary (RFA) Mounts Bay alongside 2 border force cutters to join the NATO mission in the Aegean Sea that aims to reduce the flow of migrants from Turkey to Europe.
RFA Mounts Bay, supported by a Wildcat helicopter, is expected to start operations in the coming days – identifying smugglers taking migrants to Greece and passing the information to the Turkish coastguard so they can intercept these boats. They will be supported by 3 border force boats – VOS Grace which is already in the Aegean; the cutter Protector which is on its way to the region and a further Border Force cutter that is expected to start operations later this month.
With migrant arrivals in Greece still averaging 1,800 a day in February and over 116,000 arrivals across the Aegean already this year, European countries are stepping up their efforts with Turkey to break the business model of the people smuggling criminal gangs which are exploiting people and putting lives at risk every day.
At an EU summit in Brussels today, the Prime Minister will call on European partners to focus on 3 priorities:
- breaking the link between getting on a boat and getting resettlement in Europe by smashing the trafficking gangs and increasing the return of illegal migrants
- supporting Turkey, already hosting 2.6 million migrants and with many more sheltering on its border with Syria
- providing technical assistance to Greece so it can accelerate the processing of migrant claims and return illegal migrants to their countries of origin
Speaking ahead of the summit, the Prime Minister said:
This migration crisis is the greatest challenge facing Europe today.
Britain has not faced anywhere near the scale of migrants coming to Europe as other countries because we are out of Schengen 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.
That’s why this NATO mission is so important. It’s an opportunity to stop the smugglers and send out a clear message to migrants contemplating journeys to Europe that they will be turned back. That’s why the UK is providing vital military assets to work with our European partners and support this mission.
Notes to editors
RFA Mounts Bay will join the German Navy flagship FGS Bonn, the Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Fredericton, Turkish Navy frigate TCG Barbaros and Greek Navy frigate HS Salamis monitoring assigned areas. This is NATO’s first intervention in the migrant crisis.
Last year, Royal Navy ships HMS Bulwark and HMS Richmond deployed in the Mediterranean as part of wider EU operations in the region. HMS Enterprise is still actively committed to combatting people smuggling in the southern Mediterranean.