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Royal Navy to intercept refugee boats heading to Europe 

7 March

The Royal Navy is to join a multi-nation operation in the Mediterranean to crack down on the people-smugglers responsible for bringing thousands to Europe.

Three ships - the RFA Mounts Bay, an amphibious landing vessel with a Wildcat helicopter on board, and two cutters from the UK Border Force - will take their place alongside boats from Germany, Canada, Turkey and Greece as part of the Nato flotilla stationed in the Aegean Sea.

They will monitor the waterway for signs of boats carrying illegal migrants and refugees from Syria to Turkey and Greece and notify the Turkish coastguard to intercept them.

The decision to deploy Royal Navy assets represents an escalation of British involvement in the crisis. Announcing the move yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron said that "where we can help, we should".

He added: "We've got to break the business model of the criminal smugglers and stop the desperate flow of people crammed into makeshift vessels from embarking on a fruitless and perilous journey."

Hundreds have drowned on the perilous crossing to Europe after paying human traffickers for a place on a boat or dinghy.

Cameron's announcement comes as Turkish leaders join European leaders in Brussels today for an emergency summit on the refugee crisis. An estimated 3,000 people arrive on Turkey's shores every day and the country has repeatedly warned it can no longer cope with the situation.

Last year, the majority of the one million refugees and migrants who entered the European Union came via Turkey, the BBC reports. The EU is hoping to stem this tide and regain control of its borders by offering Turkey €3bn (£2.3bn) to keep economic migrants in the country.

Last week, European Council President Donald Tusk told those considering making the journey to Europe that only economic migrants would not be allowed to remain.

"Do not believe the smugglers," he warned. "Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing."

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