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Navy rescues refugees in the Med

Published 07/05/2015

HMS Bulwark is on patrol in the Mediterranean
HMS Bulwark is on patrol in the Mediterranean

The Royal Navy's flagship has rescued a more than 100 refugees adrift in the Mediterranean - its first mission since being deployed in the region.

HMS Bulwark was despatched to the Mediterranean on Monday as part of David Cameron's promise to help tackle the migrant crisis, which has cost the lives of nearly 1,800 people this year.

The 19,000-tonne assault ship picked up 110 migrants today after inspecting a suspicious rubber boat. With the help of the Italian coastguard, the migrants were taken to land.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "HMS Bulwark, working with the Italian coastguard, today investigated a large rubber boat with approximately 110 individuals on board.

"The individuals were rescued using Bulwark's landing craft before being transferred on to the Italian coastguard's vessel and taken to land. Everyone was transferred safely and HMS Bulwark remains on task."

The Prime Minister pledged the ship on April 23 ahead of an emergency EU summit to discuss how European countries could cooperate to prevent the deaths of thousands this summer.

Speaking outside the Brussels meeting, Mr Cameron said: "Saving lives means rescuing these poor people, but it also means smashing the gangs and stabilising the region.

"Now Britain, as ever, will help. We'll use our aid budget to help stabilise neighbouring countries. And as the country in Europe with the biggest defence budget, we can make a real contribution."

Mr Cameron also pledged three Merlin helicopters to the rescue effort.

HMS Bulwark, a landing platform dock, is designed to put ashore Royal Marine commandos in assaults by sea, by boats launched from the dock compartment, and from two helicopters from the deck.

It has a nautical range of 8,000 miles and can carry up to 700 troops on top of a crew of 325.

The MoD said earlier that the Prime Minister had made clear to the European Council that Britain would play a role in tackling the current crisis in the Mediterranean but would not offer refugees asylum in the UK.

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