The UK government has added another warship, HMS Richmond, in its battle to board and seize boats suspected of people smuggling in the Mediterranean. The Type 23 frigate will operate under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2240 that gives her commanding officer the authority to "conduct enforcement action on the high seas, including the boarding and seizing of boats suspected to be involved in migrant smuggling".
It will join HMS Enterprise in patrolling the treacherous waters between Africa and the Middle East and Europe where hundreds have lost their lives in a bid to escape wars in countries including Iraq and Syria.
HMS Enterprise was involved in an operation to save nearly 400 migrants last month working in conjunction with the Italian authorities. The announcement comes soon after the arrival of four migrant boats at an RAF base in Cyprus on Wednesday (21 October). Just over 600,000 migrants have arrived in EU countries by boat so far this year according to the International Organisation for Migration. An estimated 475,000 have landed in Greece and 137,000 have headed for Italy. More than 2,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015.
A liaison officer from border agency Frontex will be on board HMS Richmond to advise her crew on legal issues including the identification, collection and preservation of evidence which could be used in criminal proceedings.
Defence secretary Michael Fallon said: "These new powers are an important step forward. We will now be able to board the boats and detain the smugglers. Sending HMS Richmond to join HMS Enterprise in the Mediterranean shows Britain's determination to tackle this trade in human misery at source. We'll hit the traffickers hard."