PMQs: Cameron factually incorrect to say majority of Mediterranean migrants not asylum seekers

The largest group by nationality attempting the Mediterranean crossing in recent months have been from Syria


Prime minister David Cameron was wrong to claim during today’s PMQs that the majority of Mediterranean migrants are not asylum-seekers.

Cameron’s comments came in answer to a question from SNP MP Angus Robertson about the UK’s refusal to take part in an EU refugee quota system. The SNP leader in Westminster called it a “stain on the conscience of Europe”.

In response, Cameron said the majority of refugees making their way to Europe via the Mediterranean were economic migrants and that European authorites needed to go after the people traffickers bringing them to European shores.

“We have an asylum system in this country when people are fleeing torture and persecution. The vast majority in the Mediterranean are not asylum seekers but people seeking a better life,” Cameron said.

But according to human rights group Amnesty International, the largest group by nationality attempting the Mediterranean crossing in recent months have been refugees from war-ravaged Syria.

Last year Eritreans and Syrians alone amounted to nearly 50 per cent of those boarding boats in the Mediterranean. According to the EU’s frontier agency Frontex, Syrians and Eritreans accounted for 46 per cent of the 170,000-plus people who reached Italy by boat in 2014. Eritrea has been described as ‘Africa’s North Korea’ due to its repressive and isolationist government.

Amnesty International UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights director Steve Symonds said David Cameron was “completely wrong” to say the vast majority of Mediterranean migrants were not asylum-seekers:

At least half of those risking their lives in the Mediterranean are fleeing persecution in places like Syria, Eritrea and Somalia.

“We all know that PMQs is a political knockabout, but the Prime Minister has a duty to stick to the facts – not least on an issue where tens of thousands of people’s lives are at stake.”

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Forward. Follow him on Twitter

13 Responses to “PMQs: Cameron factually incorrect to say majority of Mediterranean migrants not asylum seekers”

  1. Nick Fourbanks

    David Cameron has never even visited the region if he were so clever he and his government should go after the traffickers bringing them to European shores. And he would do if oil were involved but for human life he’ll be staying out of it that’s for sure

  2. damon

    You can argue this all around the houses. Asylum seekers and economic migrants are totally mixed together Libya. Should the whole population of Eritrea be resettled in Europe?
    If it’s that bad, maybe we should invade and topple the government.

  3. swat

    I think there’s also a good sprinkling of Al Queda, Taliban and IS islamofacists in there as well. Its going to be a job sorting them out into legtit and non legit, and sending the non legit on a return trip back to Africa. Most would be middle class aspirants who’ve paid thousands of dollars to seek a better life.

  4. Torybushhug

    Fit men ought to stay and fight for thier communities, look after the disabled and the children. Running away from these nations leave the vulnerable even more wretched. Also there are lots of closer nations these people should settle in rather than come to benefits Britain. A BBC journ was in Calaise the other day and lots of migrants trying to get out of France to Britain were well aware British procedure ensures they get immediate assistance of all kinds, this is what keeps the tide comming, but it is ruinous on so many levels.

  5. PatrioticEritrean

    Dummy, be our guest to invade our beloved country, you guys or your Gov, immigration system is wrong, there is one thing you should understand before you open your filthy big mouth, FYI don’t trust that everyone comes from Africa is not Eritrean, here is the secret, most of European Government immigration, if you are an asylum seeker from Eritrea, they will accept you Automatically, so the Ethiopians, Somalis, Sudanees, suoth sudanees, Chad, Djibuti, and others, once they cross Meditreanian sea, they claim that they are Eritreans, that’s why the media say that most of the immigrants are from Eritrea, Eritrea is the most peaceful, independent Country in Africa, people don’t understand why the western Countries hate Eritrea, it is politically motivated,the main reason why western Countries hate Eritrean People and Government is because they refuse to kneel down for Neocolonialism, because they say no for hand out and adopt a self reliant policy, you should read more about Eritrea more so that you will know the game, don’t read the mainstream media, read alternate media if you really want to know about Eritrea.

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