Labour: EU's migrant drowning plan 'painfully weak'

Posted On: 
21st April 2015

The European Union’s plan to prevent migrants trying to reach Europe from drowning in the Mediterranean “doesn’t go nearly far enough”, Labour has warned. 

EU leaders will hold an emergency summit on Thursday to discuss the crisis, which has seen some 1,300 people die over last two weeks.

Foreign ministers agreed yesterday to step up maritime patrols in the Mediterranean and also seek authorisation for military operations against people smugglers as part of a ten-part plan to tackle the problem.

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David Cameron said Britain “can do more and lend a hand” to stop the trafficking of people.

But Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, has warned the EU’s plan is inadequate, and said it was “deeply troubling” that the UK had played a “leading role” in scaling back search-and-rescue operations last year.

She said: “It is right that governments across Europe are coming together to try to stop more tragic deaths in the Mediterranean, but this plan doesn't go nearly far enough.

“We have a humanitarian crisis on Europe’s southern shores and the terrible sight of children’s bodies being carried out of the waves should shame governments into realising that this response is still painfully weak.

“A bit of additional funding for Operation Triton is no replacement for a properly funded EU search and rescue operation. That is what is needed and what we will continue to push for ahead of the emergency summit on Thursday.”

Late last year, the Government defended the decision to replace the Italian-led Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue mission with the scaled back Operation Trident on grounds that the patrols could be a “pull factor” for immigrants to risk the trip.