Kirkhope: Migrant search mission is how Frontex should be used

08-Sep-2013 @ 17:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

A senior MEP today said a European Commission proposal for a Mediterranean-wide search and rescue mission to intercept migrant boats, was an "encouraging" development.

Timothy Kirkhope, Conservative spokesman on justice and home affairs, said lessons must be learnt from the refugee boat tragedy off Italy, even though it was too late to help the victims.

He was speaking after Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom called for a major operation by the EU's border agency Frontex, prompted by the deaths of at least 250 migrants when their boat sank off Lampedusa.

Mr Kirkhope has consistently advocated a greater role for Frontex, not just in protecting Europe's borders, but in safely intercepting would be migrants from North Africa.

He said: "This has been a real tragedy, and unfortunately, these events have taught us lessons which we have learnt too late.

"I have always been a supporter of Frontex, and supported calls for the agency to play a greater role in guarding the European borders including at sea. It is important not just for security and to combat smugglers and human traffickers who target Europe, but also in dealing with potentially fatal humanitarian problems.

"This new-found resolve is encouraging. It is something which I and the Parliament have been calling for.

"What we need now is for member states and the EU Council to get behind these proposals, because too often in the past similar proposals have been shelved.

"This isn't about facilitating immigration, but about identifying those whose lives are at real risk and policing Europe's borders, so that we never have to witness events like this again."

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