Migrants will be “turned back”.
Migrant crisis: UK to send ships to tackle people smugglers
The UK will provide “vital military assets” to help a Nato mission tackling people smugglers in the Aegean Sea, David Cameron has said.
The PM announced the amphibious landing ship RFA Mounts Bay would be sent ahead of an emergency summit in Brussels.
The ship, which carries a Wildcat helicopter, will be joined by two cutter boats and a civilian vessel.
More than a million migrants entered the EU illegally by boat travelling mainly from Turkey to Greece last year.
RFA Mounts Bay and two Border Force patrol boats, known as cutters, will join naval vessels from Germany, Canada, Turkey and Greece as part of Nato’s first intervention in the migrant crisis.
The vessels will identify smugglers taking migrants to Greece and pass the information to the Turkish coastguard so they can intercept these boats.
The UK’s civilian vessel VOS Grace is already in the Aegean.
Mr Cameron said the migrant crisis was “the greatest challenge facing Europe today”.
“We’ve got to break the business model of the criminal smugglers and stop the desperate flow of people crammed into makeshift vessels from embarking on a fruitless and perilous journey,” he said.
“That’s why this Nato mission is so important.
“It’s an opportunity to stop the smugglers and send out a clear message to migrants contemplating journeys to Europe that they will be turned back.”
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the “primary mission” was to “build up a proper picture of the smuggling route”.
“Smugglers are making money out of people drowning,” he said.
“What’s essential is to work out where this people smuggling is done from and then to get a policy in place of returning people which in the end will stop people making this very, very dangerous crossing.”
The EU has pledged €3bn (£2.3bn; $3.3bn) to Turkey in return for housing migrants and stemming the flow.
Some 13,000 are stranded on Greece’s border with Macedonia as European states seek to restrict entry.