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Wed, 30 September 2020

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Priti Patel ‘wants to send in the Navy’ amid Channel migrant crossings

Priti Patel ‘wants to send in the Navy’ amid Channel migrant crossings

Government sources said ‘all options’ were being considered to stem the journeys. (PA)

2 min read

Priti Patel reportedly backs sending Royal Navy patrols into the English Channel to prevent migrant crossings.

According to the Daily Mail, the “furious” Home Secretary has asked officials to draw up plans for the Navy to turn back boats in a bid to stop people making the perilous journey.

More than 3,700 migrants have arrived in the UK this year via channel crossings, compared to 1,850 in the whole of 2019.

A Government source told the paper that “all options” were being considered to prevent the journeys, amid claims as many as 250 people attempted to cross from France to the UK on Thursday.

A Home Office source said: “The final straw was this record number, which led the Home Secretary to demand this new initiative. 

“The real solution must come from the French – we want the French to take them back.”

Ms Patel has reportedly received advice that using smaller Navy vessels to turn boats back and order them to return to France would be legal under maritime law.

But it risks angering French authorities, who this month signed a joint agreement with Britain to form a new joint intelligence unit to tackle trafficking.

Speaking to Sky News on Friday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak did not deny that the Government was considering drafting in the Navy to aid its response.

"I'm frustrated," he said. "Everyone is, which is why we've been working much more closely with the French government in recent time to improve our co-operation and intelligence-sharing to police crossings."

Ms Patel’s predecessor Sajid Javid declared the channel journeys a “major incident” at the end of 2018.

But the move was branded an “over-reaction” by charity the Refugee Council, which called on the Government to instead introduce safe routes to asylum in the UK and bolster exisiting resettlement programmes for people fleeing war-torn Syria.

And Minnie Rahman, public affairs and campaigns manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "Those being forced to make desperate journeys across the Channel are doing so because they simply have no other options and become reliant on those willing to exploit them."

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