The government has announced a three-year programme to tackle the migration crisis to help reduce the number of people risking the perilous Central Mediterranean route to Europe – and make sure humanitarian support reaches those in desperate need.
The package of measures will enable voluntary returns and re-integration for those already in transit, as well as food, clean water and medical care for those in need. The scheme will also tackle people trafficking and smuggling.
The government says this will not only save lives, but also reduce the need for dangerous journeys and reduce irregular migration.
The new UK support will initially target transit routes running from the Horn of Africa and West Africa, through to countries including Niger, Egypt and particularly Libya, where growing numbers are looking to make the dangerous crossing into Europe.
In 2016, a record 181,000 people arrived in Italy via this route, with a greater number expected in 2017.
Of the 5,000-plus migrants who died at sea last year, the vast majority – nearly 4,600 – lost their lives on this Central Mediterranean route.
The commitment builds on existing UK action to tackle the underlying drivers of the migration crisis – including conflict, disease and instability. It will also help create jobs, education and opportunities, so that people are able to build a better future closer to home.
International Development Secretary Priti Patel said:
“The UK has been at the forefront of responding to the migration crisis – and our work to date has helped reduce total migrant numbers to Europe since 2015.
“But worryingly, more and more people are now using the incredibly dangerous Central Mediterranean route.
“This new UK support will provide desperately needed aid and protection to tens of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable – but critically, it will also make clear the massive risks involved at every stage of this route and provide alternatives, so those who change their minds can return home.
“As well as saving lives, this will provide vulnerable people with meaningful alternatives to the treacherous crossings into Europe.
“Building on our existing work to deal with the root causes of migration, this approach is about using our aid in a smart way, as part of a coordinated approach across government, to provide protection to people who need it and serve Britain’s national interests.”
The new £75 million package will be delivered over the course of the next three years. It will retain a degree of flexibility to allow prioritisation of emerging needs, but the initial focus will include supporting those who want to return home, by facilitating travel and helping with re-integration on their return – and providing lifesaving food, clean water and medical care to the most vulnerable refugees and migrants, including those making desert crossings.
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