Thursday, 14 May 2015

Operation Shameless Hypocrisy

You really can't get a much clearer example of government saying one thing and doing another. As the newly elected government talk tough on immigration and the moral hazard of assisting those attempting to cross the Mediterranean, one of the Royal Navy's largest ships actually delivered 400 illegal immigrants to Italy.

A quick look at the key facts of this case tells you the whole story. 400 people set sail in rubber dinghies from Libya to Italy, a journey which is at least 200 miles at it's narrowest point. Just 40 miles off the Libyan coast they ran into difficulties, and were rescued by the Italian coastguard and HMS Bulwark, and shipped to Italy. Italians I'm sure are very grateful for this.

It would take an absolute heart of stone for anyone in the area to simply let these people drown, and it's not a fair position to put naval crews in. But you have to ask why our navy is patrolling 40 miles off the Libyan coast in the first place. And secondly why, on intercepting such craft, they deliver the refugees straight to their intended destination rather than escorting them back to Libya. They are not simply saving drowning people at sea, they are laying on a free ferry service for them. Aspiring migrants must know this policy - it would be pretty much suicide to attempt such a crossing with the equipment and preparation they have, or haven't, got.

I don't expect a complete policy shift one week after a general election, but I watch with interest for the response to this, and how exactly they will change this policy. And change it they must because it is an absolutely ridiculous policy, which encouraged 400 people including children and pregnant women to make this perilous journey in rubber dinghies, and will encourage many, many more.

The only answer can be that we simply do not have ships patrolling this area, do not put our naval crews in the position of having to make such awful decisions, and demonstrate a clear and consistent policy of returning vessels to their port of origin rather than completing a journey they embarked on with apparently every intention of being rescued by European ships.