The Mediterranean migrant crisis is “reaching our borders”, the Home Secretary has claimed, pointing the finger at “criminal gangs” who help people flee conflict zones to come to Europe.
Theresa May is in Luxembourg to thrash out an agreement with EU interior ministers about where newly rescued migrants should end up in Europe.
The European Commission has proposed a quota system for European countries to take the pressure of Greece, Italy, and Malta – which currently take the bulk of refugees under existing rules.
Britain has set itself against accepting any refugees, however, and says development aid and security operations to stop groups from crossing the sea would be more effective.
"Of course the crisis in terms of migrants who cross the Mediterranean is a problem in two ways. First of all, obviously, lives are being put at risk but secondly, as we see in Calais and elsewhere, it's putting great pressure on European towns and cities which is even reaching to our borders, although we are not part of the borderless Schengen area,” Ms May told the Press Association before the meeting.
“To deal with this issue in the long term we need to go after the criminal gangs who are plying a terrible, callous trade in human lives.
“We also need to break the link between people getting into the boats and reaching Europe. That means returning people to North Africa or elsewhere, or to their home countries; so that they see that there is no merit in this journey.
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
"It also means development work in the countries of origin so that we can ensure people no longer have the same incentive to try to get into these boats and risk their lives."
Ms May skirted around Britain's opposition to taking any refugees, which was summarised by a Government spokesperson last month as: "We will oppose any EU Commission proposals to introduce a non-voluntary quota."
Renewed EU operations to rescue operations have stopped 3,000 people from drowning in less than two months, the Independent reported earlier today.
However, the Guardian says Britain is due to withdraw the main warship it had sent to help migrants within the next three weeks as the media furore dies down.
The Government has previously said it believes saving the lives of drowning people acts as a “pull” factor on migrants and encourages them to make the journey.
Deaths were significantly higher this year compared to last year, but have died down since a renewed rescue push by EU countries.Reuse content