UK defence secretary suggests Britain use aid budget to discourage mass migration from Africa

UK defence secretary Michael Fallon. (File photo)
UK defence secretary Michael Fallon. (File photo)

The UK overseas aid budget should be used to "stabilise" countries and "discourage" mass migration, according to the UK defence secretary.

In comments to UK broadcaster the BBC, Michael Fallon was in favour of "well-focused aid" which could "prevent conflict breaking out... so that we don't have to fish people out of the Mediterranean later on".

More than 1,800 migrants have died in the Mediterranean so far this year, 20 times more than during the same period in 2014.

The British government has sent Royal Navy warship HMS Bulwark to aid search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean. But Britain has not signed up to proposals from the European Commission to redistribute tens of thousands of asylum seekers who have arrived in Italy and Greece to other countries.

Fallon urged EU states to pool intelligence on trafficking gangs. During a recent TV interview, Fallon remarked that the problem is a European one now, with half a million people trying to cross this year.

"We know already the traffickers are ringing the Italian coastguard and telling them when the boats are setting off...We can use our overseas aid budget, and this is where it should be used, to help stabilise some of these countries and discourage this kind of mass migration from them.

"Well focused aid should be used to help stabilise these countries, to prevent conflict breaking out."

"At the moment we are simply dealing with the symptoms of the problem, helping to rescue people in the Mediterranean," he said.

"There has got to be a much more comprehensive approach tackling the problem much further back."

Asked whether the EU would consider a naval blockade of the northern coast of Africa, Mr Fallon said that it was a very difficult operation to carry out and that it would be more important to look further inside Africa.