Italian authorities recently seized a refugee rescue ship operated by a German charity following allegations that the volunteers had contact with Libyan smugglers.

An investigation, which started in October, had uncovered evidence to suggest that the NGO ship, Iuventa, was used to aid and abet illegal immigration. A prosecutor from Trapani alleged that the migrants were not rescued, but in fact handed over to the NGO ship by smugglers.

Dr Julia Reid MEP, who represents the South West Counties and Gibraltar, spoke about the issue of cooperation between Human Traffickers and NGOs in the European Parliament back in March.

The UKIP MEP told Parliament of reported cases where migrants have been smuggled directly onto NGO vessels and warned that Islamic extremism is benefitting from the refugee crisis.

Opening up Europe’s doors indiscriminately has not only put the lives of migrants, who make the treacherous journey, at risk but also the lives of ordinary Europeans who now face the threat of terrorism on a daily basis,” Dr Reid said.

“UKIP have said from the very start of this crisis that we need to have a tough but fair policy on this crisis to stop innocent lives being lost at sea and to stop the profiteering of criminal gangs and ISIS”.

“To date, the UK Government has committed over £2.3 billion (now £2.46 billion) to help refugees in Syria and the region; the second largest donor. Since its inception, almost four and a half thousand (now almost 6,000) Syrians have entered the UK under the Syrian vulnerable person settlement programme. Perhaps the EU would do better to follow the UK’s example, rather than have desperate people paying vast sums of money to smugglers, who only view them as a disposable commodity.”

Commenting on the recent events Dr Reid said: “The latest figures from Eurostat have shown that, of the new asylum seekers who have arrived in Italy in the first five months of 2017, only 1.4% of them are from Syria, 0.83% are from Afghanistan, 1.54% are from Iraq and 0.36% of them are from Libya. The overwhelming majority of them are not ‘refugees’ fleeing war-torn countries, they’re economic migrants from countries like Nigeria, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“Whilst I don’t doubt for one minute that the volunteers’ motives are humanitarian, their ill-thought-out actions have only lead to, and encouraged, countless more migrants to make the dangerous journey.”

ENDS