TORY PM Cameron has been accused of ‘gun boat diplomacy,’ after the announcement that Royal Navy vessels will be deployed this summer to turn refugees back to Libya and then destroy their boats.
UK officials confirmed that people-smuggling boats will be turned back to the Libyan shore for ‘destruction’. They said Britain would also like to see ‘closer NATO co-operation with Turkish coastguards’ in the Aegean Sea so that more intercepted boats can be sent back to Turkey without ever arriving in the Greek islands.
Cameron said that the EU should be ‘opening discussions with the newly-established Libyan government of national accord’ on the extension of its current Operation Sophia Mission to within several miles of the Libyan shore.
Cameron was speaking as EU leaders were desperately trying to secure a trade with Turkey over the refugee crisis. EU leaders agreed on a joint position late on Thursday night that every single refugee that has successfully made the journey from Turkey to Greece will be sent back to where they came from.
The talks were being held between EU leaders and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels. On Friday Davutoglu said he will not accept Turkey becoming an ‘open prison’ for refugees. The EU proposal would see Turkey offered financial aid.
However, Turkey is demanding billions of euros more.
Turkey is also demanding visa-free travel for all Turkish nationals throughout the EU and that talks about Turkey becoming a member of the EU are sped up. Ahead of Friday’s talks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the legal resettlement of Syrian refugees could start a few days after the first returns from Greece.
However, she added that the EU needed to be ready to start returning refugees from Greece to Turkey rapidly to avoid a ‘pull factor’ creating a surge of refugees before the new system takes effect.
In an uncompromising response Turkish leader Davutoglu said: ‘At a time when Turkey is hosting three million (refugees), those who are unable to find space for a handful of refugees, who in the middle of Europe keep these innocents in shameful conditions, must first to look at themselves.’
The proposed deal with Turkey was denounced by the Refugee Council as ‘immoral, unworkable and probably illegal’. Human rights group Amnesty International placed a large screen outside the Brussels summit that read: ‘Don’t trade refugees. Stop the deal.’