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Gibraltar offers logistical support in Nato migrant operation

A UK Border Force cutter will stop in Gibraltar today on its way to the Aegean Sea as part of a Nato deployment to tackle people smugglers.

HMC Protector will stop in the Naval Base to pick up fuel and stores before sailing east into the Mediterranean.

The vessel is part of a wider deployment announced by the British Government yesterday.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the Royal Navy amphibious landing ship RFA Mounts Bay will use an on-board helicopter to provide information for the Turkish coastguard about the routes being used by smuggling gangs, giving them a better chance of intercepting boats attempting the perilous crossing to Greece.

The amphibious landing ship Mounts Bay, which carries a Wildcat helicopter as well as Royal Marines and medics, is expected to start operations in the coming days, joining naval vessels from Germany, Canada, Turkey and Greece as part of Nato's first intervention in the migrant crisis.

Two Border Force cutters – one of them HMC Protector - will also join the operation, along with a third boat - the chartered civilian vessel VOS Grace - which is already in the Aegean.

Mr Fallon said: "What's essential is to work out where this people smuggling is done from and then to get a policy in place of returning people, which in the end will stop people making this very dangerous crossing.”

"We have to put a stop to this because otherwise we are going to see more lives lost and more misery."

Around 1,800 migrants a day arrived in Greece in February, with more than 116,000 migrant arrivals across the Aegean already this year.

HMC Protector is one of five cutters operated by the UK Border Force to protect UK waters and coastline.

The ships operate 24 hours a day, all year round, responding to intelligence-led information or patrolling high-risk areas.

Their primary function is to intercept drug shipments and other restricted or prohibited goods being trafficked by sea.

HMC Protector and its sister ship HMC Seeker were last in Gibraltar in September 2015, while the RFA Mounts Bay was last here in January this year.

The Royal Navy ship sailed in carrying the Governor, Lieutenant General Edward Davis, at the start of his term in the post.

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