The EU should sink boats carrying illegal immigrants to prevent them entering Europe, British National Party leader Nick Griffin has told the BBC.
The MEP for the North-West of England said the EU had to get "very tough" with migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. Pressed on what should happen to those on board, he said:
"Throw them a life raft and they can go back to Libya".
Libya has long been a staging post for migrants from Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa wanting to reach Europe. Nearly 37,000 immigrants landed on Italian shores last year, an increase of about 75% on the year before. But with the prospect of a new immigration and asylum policy being voted on this autumn by MEPs, Mr Griffin is advocating measures to destroy boats used by illegal immigrants to reach the EU's southern coastline.
'Combating the flow'
In an interview with this week's edition of BBC Parliament's The Record Europe, he said: "If there's measures to set up some kind of force or to help, say the Italians, set up a force which actually blocks the Mediterranean then we'd support that. But the only measure, sooner or later, which is going to stop immigration and stop large numbers of sub-Saharan Africans dying on the way to get over here is to get very tough with those coming over.
"Frankly, they need to sink several of those boats. Anyone coming up with measures like that we'll support but anything which is there as a 'oh, we need to do something about it' but in the end doing something about it means bringing them into Europe' we will oppose."
The interviewer, BBC Correspondent Shirin Wheeler, said: "I don't think the EU is in the business of murdering people at sea."
Mr Griffin replied: "I didn't say anyone should be murdered at sea - I say boats should be sunk, they can throw them a life raft and they can go back to Libya. But Europe has sooner or later to close its borders or its simply going to be swamped by the Third World."
In May, the Italian government gave Libya three patrol boats as part of a deal aimed at combating the flow of illegal migrants making the crossing to Italy. Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the anti-immigration Lega Nord party, hailed the first 200 migrants picked up by the boats and returned to Libya as an "historic" moment. But human rights groups have raised concerns about Italy sending migrants back to Libya without first screening them for asylum claims or to discover whether they are sick, injured, unaccompanied children or victims of human trafficking. Libya has no functioning asylum system and is not a party to the 1951 UN convention relating to the status of refugees.
Separately Mr Griffin, who will next week formally take up his seat in Brussels, has admitted that the BNP has failed to convince other like-minded parties to form an alliance in the new European Parliament. Talks with France's Front National, Lega Nord, and other groups fell apart, with Lega Nord now joining the new Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, led by Britain's UK Independence Party.
Mr Griffin told The Parliament.com: "We needed at least 25 members from seven different member states to form a group. There is no doubt that we would have been able to wield a lot more influence if we could have formed a group. No one was prepared to commit themselves knowing that we had not got Lega Nord on board.
"Even so, we will continue to work together with these other groups and share ideas. We will have less access to things like speaking time and committee votes but it's too bad."
The BNP advocates British withdrawal from the European Union and an end to all immigration to the UK and last month won its first two seats in the European Parliament. Mr Griffin and the party's other recently-elected MEP Andrew Brons will sit in the "non-attached" section of the Parliament, which means they will be entitled to less administrative and financial support.