William Hague: UK intervention not responsible for Libya migrant crisis

Posted On: 
21st April 2015

William Hague has denied that military intervention to remove Colonel Gaddafi from power in Libya triggered the current migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. 

William Hague on BBC News

Approximately 1,300 people are believed to have drowned over the past two weeks while trying to reach Europe in boats launched from Libya.

Some critics have suggested that the West's decision to help the Libyan opposition overthrow the Gaddafi regime contributed to the current chaos, which has seen Libya left without a functioning government.

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Ukip leader Nigel Farage said on Sunday it was “the European response that caused this problem in the first place, the fanaticism of Sarkozy and Cameron to bomb Libya”.

But Mr Hague, who was foreign secretary during the intervention in 2011, said this morning it would be “wrong to think that whatever’s happened in Libya in the last few years is the cause of this”.

He added on BBC Radio 5live: “Let me remind you of something as well, which is that when Colonel Gaddafi was still in power, there were periods when he simply allowed people to do exactly this, to get into boats and try to go to Europe – that was one of the ways in which he put pressure on Europe. So I don’t think that is the change in this situation; I think this is a problem that goes well beyond Libya.”

EU RESPONSE

European Union leaders will meet on Thursday to discuss the crisis after foreign ministers agreed yesterday to step up maritime patrols in the Mediterranean and also seek authorisation for military operations against people smugglers.

Last year, the EU replaced the Italian-led Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue mission with the scaled back Operation Trident.

The UK Government at the time said the patrols could be a “pull factor” to encourage immigrants to make the trip, and Mr Hague told Sky News earlier “all the evidence was that more people died when that [bigger operation] was in place”.

But Labour has criticised the Government for not doing more. Ed Miliband this morning said of the “pull factor” argument: “I don’t buy it.”

The Labour leader told BBC Breakfast: “We haven’t really got to a situation, have we, where we say we’re going to let people drown because saving them is somehow a price kind of not worth paying. We cannot do that. Frankly, it is a stain on the EU if we don’t take proper action.”