The Type 23 frigate, HMS Richmond, has been involved in the recovery of 134 migrants from a dinghy that was attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe. The ship’s company provided food and medical assistance to the migrants before they were taken ashore to Sicily. The frigate was operating as part of a multi-national fleet conducting operations in the Mediterranean.
The European fleet rescued more than 500 people from a flotilla of overcrowded and barely seaworthy vessels. A spokesman for the operation said that as well as the 134 men and women rescued by the Royal Navy, the Belgians recovered 258 people and the Slovenian Navy retrieved up 76 people. This was the third group of migrants HMS Richmond has rescued in less than two weeks and brings the number of migrants rescued by the Royal Navy up to nearly 8,000 since May.
The flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Bulwark, and the frigate HMS Somerset will be part of the security being provided for this week’s EU summit being held on the island of Malta. RAF Typhoon fighters will be operating from bases in Sicily as well to provide air defence duties should they be required. Despite the heavy British military presence both the British and Maltese governments have stressed that the Maltese government have final authority on all security arrangements and decisions.
This summit will take place on the 11th and 12th of November at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta, Malta’s capital city. The conference will be held to address the current demands of the continually unfolding migrant crisis on the European member states. The EU press release also states that the conference will be used to look in to addressing the root causes of the crisis.
The Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, explained to the media that while he expected no imminent terrorist or external threat to Malta during the summit he felt it prudent to ask the UK to assist in security areas that cannot be covered by the Maltese defence forces. HMS Bulwark will be docked in Malta while HMS Somerset will patrol the seas around the island. It is perhaps fitting that Bulwark should be aiding in providing security for the summit having been heavily involved in the rescue of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean earlier this year.
The past week has seen a number of incidents of anger and frustration amongst the migrants who landed at an RAF base in Cyprus last month. A total of 114 refugees, mostly from Syria, including 67 men, 19 women and 28 children, landed in Cyprus at RAF Akrotiri. They have since been moved to RAF Dhekelia near Larnaca where the trouble brewed up on Monday night.
The migrants have become increasingly angry over the way they feel they have been treated with footage of a man taken on a mobile phone shouting at British police that they are being treated like animals while another man made reference to Guantánamo Bay. On Monday night British police had to force their way through an angry crowd in an attempt to stop a man from hanging himself.
The British government has reiterated that is has an agreement with the Cypriot authorities to hand over the migrants and a small number have been moved out but around 100 remain at the camp. The government has stressed that the British bases on Cyprus will not be allowed to become a “new migrant route” to the UK but did emphasize that the conditions at the facility were better than other migrant camps across Europe.
Two boats carrying migrants have come ashore this morning at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in what is effectively the first time that refugees have landed directly on what is considered British sovereign soil. Early reports indicate that 140 people were aboard two boats that made it to the base from North Africa and that another two boats are on the way.
A spokesman for the base said.
We have not established where they are from yet.
This is also the first time Cyprus has seen a considerable number of migrants arrive as they have tended to avoid the island preferring to go to mainland Europe.
HMS Enterprise H88 (Crown Copyright: Geoff Parselle)
The Royal Navy Echo-class HMS Enterprise H88 has been operating as part of a task force which collectively have saved 4,400 desperate migrants on board more than 20 Europe-bound boats off the Libyan coast. Being in close proximity to four of the boats her crew brought 453 migrants aboard during the intense effort conducted on Saturday. The migrants were later transferred to the German frigate Schleswig Holstein which transported them to the southern Italian port of Taranto allowing Enterprise to continue patrolling the region for more migrant boats.
Enterprise is a 3,740 ton oceanographic survey vessel and replaced the 19,000 ton HMS Bulwark landing platform dock in the Mediterranean mission back in July causing concerns to be raised by aid agencies and parliamentary observers that the significantly smaller vessel would offer reduced capabilities. The Ministry of Defence responded to these concerns by stating that the vessel was more than up to the task given the previous experiences the Royal Navy has had in the EU mission. The dramatic events on Saturday would seem to support this opinion.
It has now been confirmed that British troops will be involved in an operations to address the migrant crisis. The decision was made following a Cobra (Cabinet Office Briefing Room) meeting on Friday morning but the Army will not take part in a security role but rather will be used as a way of easing traffic congestion leading to the tunnel in Folkestone.
Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed the Ministry of Defence will use its land around Folkestone as a temporary parking space allowing some relief for the heavily congested motorway. British soldiers will work alongside police as part of the so-called Operation: Stack which has seen vast numbers of lorries parked up alongside the motorways leading to the tunnel as a result of the situation in Calais. It is understood that the police will have authority over the operation and that the Army is effectively operating in an auxiliary role.
On addressing questions regarding British efforts to improve security in Calais the Prime Minister said sniffer dogs and extra fencing would be sent to France to help the struggling French authorities in Calais who appear completely overwhelmed. If the relationship between France and Britain over the migrants was not strained enough already, this week saw the release of figures showing that UK companies are losing up to £750,000 a day due to delays prompting the leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harmon, to demand that David Cameron speak to his French counterparts about compensation claims.
David Cameron simply responded to all questions along the lines of;
This is going to be a difficult issue right across the summer…I will have a team of senior ministers who I will be working to deal with it, and we rule nothing out in taking action to deal with this very serious problem…We are absolutely on it. We know it needs more work.