WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- The U.K. Royal Navy's warship HMS Richmond has joined the EU's Mediterranean mission to crack down on migrant smuggling in the region.
The vessel was awarded powers to stop and detain migrant smugglers, as reports come of armed attacks on asylum seekers traveling by sea from the Middle East to Europe.
Richmond is lawfully able to conduct enforcement action on the high seas, including boarding and seizing boats suspected to be involved with smuggling migrants. U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon says the ship's mission demonstrates's the U.K. commitment to the EU's operations in the area.
"These new powers are an important step forward. We will now be able to board the boats and detain the smugglers," Fallon said in a statement. "Sending HMS Richmond to join HMS Enterprise in the Mediterranean shows Britain's determination to tackle this trade in human misery at source. We'll hit the traffickers hard."
A FRONTEX liaison officer will be on board to advise the crew on legal issues, such as identification, collection, and preservation of evidence. The ship was used for a rescue mission, which recovered over 350 migrants in September.