We will back Italy in migration crisis: UK PM

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British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and his Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi. Photo: Flavio lo Scalzo/Pool/AFP
10:26 CEST+02:00
British Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to help Italy deal with the Mediterranean crisis, promising the UK will work to save migrants at sea and increase aid in North Africa.

Speaking after a meeting in Milan on Thursday with his Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi, Cameron said the UK had a two-pronged approach to the current crisis.

“Great Britain will play its role not only with ships in the Mediterranean but also with a major aid programme in North Africa, which we are increasing to try and stabilize the country [Libya],” he was quoted in Il Sole 24 Ore as saying. 

“We are in agreement with you that it needs a global approach, that a new government is needed in Libya that gives chase to criminal gangs,” Cameron said.

As many as 200,000 migrants are expected to arrive in Italy by boat this year, the vast majority departing from Libya where warring factions are vying for power.

The UK previously refused to support Italy’s Mediterranean rescue mission, Mare Nostrum, which came to an end last October for lack of funding. But a British government U-turn came earlier this year following the death of around 800 migrants in one shipwreck, prompting London to send a naval vessel to help sea patrols.

The UK has also also offered resources to tackle the network of people smugglers profiting from the current crisis.

READ MORE: UK to back Italian migration spy agency

Cameron remains, however, firmly against accepting Mediterranean migrants in the UK, despite the majority of new arrivals seeing Italy as merely the gateway to Europe rather than their final destination.

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Speaking after the Milan meeting, Renzi acknowledged the difference in opinions and renewed his appeal for more help: “We know that there are diverse approaches in the EU but I think that we have the same values and that this is not only an Italian problem, but European.”

The Italian premier added that African countries should be considered a priority in addressing migration across the Mediterranean. “Africa is not considered a second-rate continent by the international community. And on this there’s agreement with Cameron,” he said.

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