The Government has announced a new £75m fund to help tackle the migration crisis in the Mediterranean and reduce the number of people dying on treacherous sea crossings to Europe.
Theresa May will confirm the package when she travels to Brussels later this week for a European Council meeting.
The money will help provide emergency provisions for migrants stranded in Mediterranean countries and will also be used to tackle people trafficking and smuggling.
It will target at well-known routes that migrants from east Africa and west Africa use to try to reach Europe. Many of these pass through Libya, where they often pay traffickers significant sums of money to take them on dangerous and often deadly sea crossings in a desperate bid to reach Europe.
In 2016, 181,000 migrants arrived in Italy via this route – a figure that is expected to rise in 2017. In total, more than a million migrants arrived in Europe last year, many of them fleeing conflicts in the Middle East.
At least 5,000 migrants are thought to have died at sea last year, the vast majority of them in the Mediterranean.
Announcing the new funding, International Development Secretary Priti Patel said: “The UK has been at the forefront of responding to the migration crisis and our work to date has helped reduce total migrant numbers to Europe since 2015. But worryingly, more and more people are now using the incredibly dangerous Central Mediterranean route.
“This new UK support will provide desperately needed aid and protection to tens of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable. But critically it will also make clear the massive risks involved at every stage of this route and provide alternatives so those who change their minds can return home.
“As well as saving lives, this will provide vulnerable people with meaningful alternatives to the treacherous crossings into Europe. Building on our existing work to deal with the root causes of migration, this approach is about using our aid in a smart way, as part of a coordinated approach across government, to provide protection to people who need it and serve Britain’s national interests.”
The funds will be spent over the next three years and will help support migrants who want to return home, as well as providing supplies for those stuck in camps in southern Europe.
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