After an unprecedented increase in the numbers of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean and dying in the process, Theresa May has said the EU should start sending them back against their will.
Advocating a tough approach to the migrant crisis that will see the new Tory government already at odds with most European countries, the Home Secretary said that nothing should be done to help migrants “which encourages more people to make these perilous journeys”.
It is estimated that 60,000 have already tried to make the journey on overcrowded ships run by people smugglers, and the UN says more than 1,800 have died – 20 times the number for the same period last year.
On Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will set out plans for a quota system aimed at giving migrants homes across the bloc that has support from France, Germany, Spain and Italy, and will say that “no migrants” stopped at sea should be “sent back against their will”.
But Ms May disagrees. Writing in The Times newspaper, she said she would “resist calls for the mandatory relocation or resettlement of migrants across Europe”, which she said would only help “criminal gangs to keep plying their evil trade”.
The Home Secretary said some migrants made the journey “simply seeking to come for economic reasons”, and that such people should be shipped back once the EU had established what she called “safe landing sites in North Africa”.
In pictures: Migrant boat disaster
In pictures: Migrant boat disaster
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Rescuers help children to disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy
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A child is carried by a rescue worker as he arrives with migrants on the boat at the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo
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A migrant is helped disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy
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A boat transporting migrants arrives in the port of Messina after a rescue operation at sea
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Italian Coast Guard officers disembark the body of a dead migrant off the ship Bruno Gregoretti, in Valletta's Grand Harbour
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Armed Forces of Malta personnel in protective clothing carry the body of a dead immigrant off Italian coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti as surviving migrants watch in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour
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Rescued migrants talk to a member of the Malta Order after a fishing boat carrying migrants capsized off the Libyan coast, is brought ashore along with 23 others retreived by the Italian Coast Guard vessel Bruno Gregoretti at Boiler Wharf, Senglea in Malta
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Bodies of dead immigrants lie on the deck of the Italian coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour
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Italian coastguard personnel in protective clothing carry the body of a dead immigrant off their ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour
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Italian coastguard personnel in protective clothing stand on the deck of their ship 'Bruno Gregoretti', carrying dead immigrants on board, as it arrives in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand, Harbour
Her stance is likely to spark anger across the EU at a time when the incentive to make allies is more imperative than ever. While Juncker’s proposals seem certain to lead to some sort of legislation by the autumn, the UK would not be compelled to take part.
One diplomat told The Times: “The UK can stay out while others take up their responsibilities. That is not going to help Cameron make friends right now.”Reuse content