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House of Commons Hansard
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Economic Migrants: North Africa
09 June 2015
Volume 596
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4. What his policy is on the potential role of his Department in returning illegal economic migrants from north Africa to their countries of origin. [900178]

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We remain firm in our belief that a comprehensive plan is needed to tackle the problem of irregular migration. The most useful development towards stopping the flow of illegal migrants would be the formation of a unity government in Libya, and we are working with European Union partners to achieve that. We are also working with colleagues in the Department for International Development and the EU to support countries of origin; reinforce security in countries of transit; and, with the Ministry of Defence, save lives in the Mediterranean.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that the current instability in Libya means that its borders are not being properly policed and that, as he says, if the warring parties could get a ceasefire and form a unity government, that would help tighten up the borders and stop the tide of economic migration to southern Europe?

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My right hon. Friend makes an important point. Although the maritime component has much the highest profile, it is the transit and trafficking operations that need to be stopped. Parties and stakeholders in Libya are coming together in Morocco—in fact, the conversation started yesterday under United Nations envoy Bernardino León—and we hope they will finally be successful.

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The problem in Libya obviously stems from much further away than Libya itself, so the stabilisation of Libya is not the solution. What will the Government do to make sure that people do not need to flee to southern Europe, because that is the root of the problem?

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The hon. Gentleman is right in part, but as I have just pointed out, it is not simply the transit issues that are important. There is a maritime component, on which we are working with Operation Triton, and there is also the source countries, so there are three parts to the solution. However, if Libya is able to provide the stability that is needed and to provide its own security, the trafficking operations can be curtailed.

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Has the Department been able to assess from intelligence exactly who is behind the trafficking? If we can only prevent the trafficking and prevent individuals from making a lot of money, that will dry up the problem.

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My right hon. Friend makes an important point. As I say, there are complex aspects to tackling this problem. It is important to understand what is happening in the source countries, notably Nigeria and Somalia. We are working with our DFID colleagues to make sure that happens. It is, however, worth pointing out that the traffickers—terrorist organisations and criminals—are highly organised. They charge about $1,000 a seat to make the journey from Africa to Europe. We must make sure that this stops.

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19. Will the Minister also look to the humanity of those escaping places such as Libya, rather than being driven solely by Daily Mail-style quotas? Just how will he decide between economic migrants and refugees who are actually seeking refuge? [900193]

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The processes we are following are well established in international law. I commend the work of Federica Mogherini, the EU lead on this. In April, she brought together EU member states on the common security and defence policy operation that will ensure we are able to prevent the boats from leaving Libya in the first place.