A British warship could be used to target people traffickers in the Mediterranean as part of European Union efforts to tackle a growing migrant crisis, the Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday.
The government said it was offering the ship to board, seize and destroy vessels in international waters off the coast of Libya, where smugglers have taken advantage of political turmoil to ship thousands of illegal migrants to Europe.
British Royal Navy ships have been involved in rescuing migrants but the government said it wanted to do more.
“The Royal Navy has rescued thousands of people from peril but we’ve been clear we have to tackle the gangs behind this, which is why it’s important the mission moves to the next phase,” said Defence Secretary Michael Fallon in a statement.
“We will not stand by and let this smuggling trade escalate; we will confront this criminal activity which risks the lives of innocent people every day.”
Fallon said the ship, HMS Richmond, was ready to deploy as soon as it was given approval by the EU.
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and William James; Editing by Alison Williams)
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