Naval Ships In Urgent Migrant Rescue Mission
HMS Bulwark is travelling towards Libya amid reports up to 14 vessels carrying migrants are stranded in the Mediterranean.
By Alistair Bunkall on HMS Bulwark | news.sky.com | www.corriere.it | June 6, 2015
HMS Bulwark is sailing towards Libya at top speed to take part in an operation to save thousands of migrants stranded at sea.
In an unprecedented move, all European naval ships in the region have been ordered to go to the area.
Intelligence has suggested that as many as 14 migrant vessels are on the open water.
It comes as a senior naval officer says that up to half a million migrants are gathering on Libya's border to try and make the dangerous journey to mainland Europe.
The ship is travelling at speeds of 15 knots an hour. One of two helicopters that HMS Bulwark has on board has spotted another migrant boat – and this could be the biggest operation that Bulwark has undertaken so far.
Speaking from HMS Bulwark, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has warned migration could be attempted on a colossal scale "if Europe does not get together and start tackling the problem much further back".
He added: "In the short-term, we need more ships from other European navies to come and help here.
"We need to pool more intelligence, we need to find out who is doing this trafficking, how they are making money from it, and we need to go back and smash the gangs involved."
HMS Bulwark was sent to stop migrant drownings in the Mediterranean after more than 800 people died on a boat travelling from Libya in April.
The migration surge has been caused in part by the Libyan civil war, which has allowed people smugglers to work virtually unimpeded.
There have also been rising illegal boat journeys from Egypt and Turkey.
In recent weeks, the warship has intercepted several stricken boats as they made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea.
On 30 May, Bulwark rescued 741 people – including dozens of "horrifyingly young" children – from overcrowded, rickety vessels.
At the time, the flagship's Commanding Officer, Captain Nick Cooke-Priest, said he was sure the migrants would have died without help.