European ministers are considering the use of force to combat the people traffickers behind the crisis in the Mediterranean.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has been tasked with drawing up plans to “identify, capture and destroy” potential people-trafficking vessels before they can set sail with their human cargoes.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that a “multi-layered approach” was needed to tackle the problem, including dealing with the criminal trafficking gangs.
The EU will seek a UN Security Council resolution to back any action and also seek the agreement of the Libyan authorities.
Around 1,800 migrants have died attempting the perilous crossing from North Africa so far this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.