Philip Hammond admits 'pull factor' search-and-rescue claim is anecdotal

Posted On: 
21st April 2015

Philip Hammond has restated the Government’s view that search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean act as a “pull factor” for migrants to make the journey to Europe, but admitted the evidence was “anecdotal”. 

The Government supported the end of the Italian-led Mare Nostrum operation last year, which was replaced by the scaled-down EU-led Triton mission.

Some 1,300 migrants have drowned in the last week while trying to make the journey from Libya to Europe, leading to demands from Labour and others for the restoration of full patrols.

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Mr Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said he agreed with his Foreign Office colleague Baroness Anelay, who said last year that Mare Nostrum was a “pull factor” for immigrants.

“There was a risk that the way the Mare Nostrum operation was being conducted could have encouraged people to take risks that it was really not safe to take,” Mr Hammond told the World at One.

“It’s anecdotal, of course, but when you talk to people who have been rescued at sea and they clearly have the impression that they can get on a vessel which is unseaworthy in the expectation that they will be immediately – within hours – picked up, that creates some really dangerous perverse incentives.”

Ed Miliband said this morning of the argument that it was a pull factor: “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.”

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.