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Tue, 29 September 2020

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Priti Patel calls for military help to stop migrants crossing English Channel

Priti Patel calls for military help to stop migrants crossing English Channel

Priti Patel has requested assistance from the Royal Navy

3 min read

Priti Patel has called on the Royal Navy to help reduce the number of migrant boats crossing the English Channel.

Royal Navy chiefs are considering a formal request from the Home Office to provide assistance in stopping migrant vessels from crossing the Channel following a surge in arrivals in recent weeks.

On Thursday, a record 235 people arrived in dinghys and other small vessells, with a further 146 people landing in 17 boats on Friday, including pregnant women and children.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she wanted to make the crossing "unviable" and suggested the plans would stop boats from entering UK waters where authorities were then "duty bound" to provide assistance.

The Ministry of Defence said it was "working hard" to fulfil the request which was requested under the military aid to the civilain authorities (MACA) protocol.

The request comes after Ms Patel appointed former Royal Marine and director of the Joint Maritime Security Centre Dan O'Mahoney to lead the crackdown on migrant crossings.

"The number of illegal small boat crossings is appalling. We are working to make this route inviable and arresting criminals facilitating crossings," she said.

"Dan's appointment is vital to cutting this route by bringing together all operational partners in the UK and in France."

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the joint plan could see Royal Navy ships and drones deployed under a so-called "push back" strategy to prevent vessels leaving French shores.

But French officials are set to demand a further £30m to help cover the costs of carrying out the patrols, with a French source telling the paper the operations were "very difficult".

"The simple fact is that a huge amount of work is successfully being put into stopping these crossings," they said.

"Patrolling an exceptionally busy stretch of sea is very difficult - those involved in operations in both France and Britain will attest to that, but there has been a lot of progress."

'Shirking responsibilities'

But the plans have come under fire from former Labour home secretary Jack Straw, who said the approach risked capsizing migrant vessels.

"It will only take one of these dinghies to capsize and everybody to drown, which is perfectly feasible, for there to be a hullabaloo including in the Conservative party and for the policy to have to be reversed so I wouldn't go down that route," he told the BBC Today programme.

"The only way to solve this is for us to say to the French, 'Yes, these people are fleeing France and to that extent they will cease to be your problem but it is a major problem for you because you've got organised criminality which is extending into drugs, into people trafficking and much else besides'."

Meanwhile, Stephen Hale, chief executive of charity Refugee Action said ministers should restart the refugee resettlement programme to provide legal routes for people to come to the UK.

"It's deeply troubling the government is trying to shirk its responsibility to help people fleeing from some of the world’s most violent and oppressive countries," he said.

"Britain is better than this. Refugees deserve better than this. We must step up alongside other countries and make our contribution to the global refugee crisis.

"The government must urgently restart its hugely successful refugee resettlement programme, on hold since March, and make a long-term commitment to this. It must also finally reform the restrictive rules on family reunion so that families are not kept apart."

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