By Ian Dunt
Families fleeing the violence in Libya will not be able to find refuge in Britain, the Home Office has said.
The development comes as Italy desperately appeals for help dealing with a surge of migrants from Libya and Tunisia, as political upheavals in north Africa and the Middle East threaten to trigger an exodus from the region.
"Those seeking international protection are expected to claim asylum in the first safe country they enter," a Home Office spokesperson said.
"Those who have no genuine claim to protection should be returned to their home countries quickly.
"Britain has offered Italy practical assistance to help maintain their border controls and asylum processes. We retain the right to not opt into any agreement which will weaken Britain's borders."
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has long used the prospect of a migration crisis to discourage European attacks and the extent of the current influx has prompted France and Italy to raise the prospect of internal frontier checks - a move which would contradict the 13-year-old Schengen Agreement scrapping border controls between EU countries.
Both France and Italy are ruled by right-wing government with a distinctly anti-immigrant flavour and the issue of immigration is even more explosive than it is in the UK, leading many politicians to demand immediate action.
A special meeting of EU interior ministers yesterday - attended by home secretary Theresa May - saw the Germans oppose any change in the Schengen Agreement rules.
Efforts to temporarily introduce border controls may be brought up at a meeting of EU leaders next month.