UK must do more to stop migrants from Libya drowning due to its role in country's collapse, say MPs

Their report calls on the Foreign Office to reassess its claim that rescue operations create a 'pull factor'

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 14 September 2016 10:20 BST

Britain must play a greater role in preventing migrants drowning in the Mediterranean because of the part it played in destabilising Libya, MPs have said.

The cross-party group of politicians claimed the UK bears “particular responsibility” for the migration crisis that the Libya intervention sparked and called on ministers to reassess their claim that rescuing people from sea creates a “pull factor” for more to come.

The demands were included in a damning report on the 2011 Libya campaign, which concluded that it lacked both “accurate intelligence” and a coherent strategy for the aftermath of removing Colonel Gaddafi.

It comes as the number of migrants who have died crossing the sea to southern Europe this year has topped 3,200 and is expected to rise in coming weeks.

The report from the Foreign Affairs Committee said: “Given its role in the conflict and subsequent destabilisation in Libya, the UK has a particular responsibility in relation to migrants and refugees, an issue which has been exacerbated by the collapse of the Libyan state.”

Two years ago Foreign Office ministers announced that the government did not “support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean”.

The reason given was that they could create “an unintended ‘pull factor’, encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths”.

The new report said that the Foreign Office should now “set out and re-examine” evidence that led it to make the claim about rescue operations being a “pull factor”.

It then called for the UK to give greater support to Italian and wider European efforts to secure agreements with migrants' countries of origin to accept the repatriation of people who have travelled over.

So far in 2016 the UN reports that 292,428 people have arrived in Europe by sea from north Africa, with 3,205 dead or missing.

More broadly, the MPs' report concluded that: “Through his decision-making in the National Security Council, former Prime Minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy.”

The disastrous results were “political and economic collapse”, tribal warfare, the refugee crisis, widespread human rights abuses and the rise of Islamic State (IS) in North Africa, fuelled by weapons abandoned by the Gaddafi regime.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We have allocated £10million this year to help the new Government to restore stability, rebuild the economy, defeat Daesh [Isis] and tackle the criminal gangs that threaten the security of Libyans and exploit illegal migrants. HMS Enterprise and HMS Diamond are both currently deployed to support the EU naval operation to tackle illegal migration, people smuggling and arms trafficking.”

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