UK government criticised over 'barbaric' plans to stop rescuing drowning African migrants


An MP has defended the Home Office's plans to stop saving refugees and migrants from drowning while they cross the treacherous Mediterranean Sea to Europe, insisting the "emergency measures should be stopped at the earliest opportunity".

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said government plans to replace vital search and rescue missions with a European border control operation would deter migrants fleeing from violence and poverty from illegally entering the continent.

He insisted that the British Government's refusal to be involved in future rescue operations would crackdown on numbers of trafficked people from North African shores, despite the Italian task force having saved tens of thousands from death.

Lib Dem peer Lord Ashdown fiercely condemned the winding-down of the Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation as "inhuman" and warned that it may contradict international law.

He said: "This is inhuman, it is discreditable and it may well be contrary to our duties under international law to do everything we can to save those in peril in the sea."

However, Mr Brokenshire remained unrepentant in the Commons today.

"Many are not rescued, which is why we believe that the [rescue] operation is having the unintended consequence of placing more lives at risk," he was reported to have said by The Guardian.

He added that since the launch of Mare Nostrum last October, there has been a four-fold increase in deaths due to people-traffickers placing migrants in unseaworthy boats on the basis that they would be saved by European authorities.

Labour backbencher Mark Lazarowicz said Britain will be complicit in migrant deaths if it fails to help, while calling for safe and legal channels for migrants to utilise instead.

Moroccan city Tangier in the closest land in Africa to Europe

More than 1,200 migrants illegally entered Spain over just two days in August and Moroccan authorities in coastal city Tangier and Spanish enclave Melilla were criticised for failing to carry out effective patrols.

Mr Lazarowicz, an MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, said the North African and sub-Saharan migrants will continue to make the journey whether search and rescue operations are discontinued or not and the government's plans are "totally without logic".

Responding to the debate, Maurice Wren, the chief executive of the Refugee Council called the Government's contention that search and rescue operations encourage people to take perilous journeys "an affront to basic humanity".

He added: "Future generations will surely look back with shame at the British Government's response to the greatest refugee crisis in generations, as it stands on our island, pulls up the drawbridge and callously leaves desperate people to drown while telling them it's in their best interests."