EU migrant crisis: Royal Navy ship HMS Richmond to tackle people smugglers risking refugees' lives off the coast of Libya

Catherine Neilan
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Migrants onboard the HMS Bulwark, which the HMS Richmond is replacing (Source: Getty)

In what is another attempt to head off the escalating migrant crisis facing the European Union, the Royal Navy is being dispatched to tackle people smugglers around the coast of Libya.

HMS Richmond is being sent to international waters around the country to try and stop criminal gangs from ferrying refugees across the Mediterranean Sea. So far this year more than 2,000 people have died attempting the crossing in boats that are often unfit for use, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

HMS Richmond has a special surveillance system that allows it to cover vast areas. Its primary role will be to board and seize vessels in the southern Mediterranean, according to the Ministry of Defence. It is being sent into replace the HMS Bulwark, as the operation begins to focus more on stopping smugglers.

Defence secretary Michael Fallon said the crisis must be tackled "at source".

"The vital work of HMS Bulwark, HMS Enterprise and our Merlin helicopters shows the UK's commitment to tackling the refugee crisis at source," he added. "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.

"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."

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