Sajid Javid beefs up English Channel patrol boats in bid to deter migrant crossings

Written by Matt Foster on 2 January 2019 in News

UK to step up Border Force patrol in the English Channel despite warnings it could encourage more people smuggling

Sajid Javid - Stefan Rousseau/PA

UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has ordered two more Border Force boats to patrol the English Channel in an effort to stop migrants making the perilous crossing from Calais to Dover in small boats.

Javid has been facing pressure to step up enforcement of the crossing after hundreds of people were intercepted trying to get to the UK, but initially claimed the extra boats would encourage traffickers to sell dangerous journeys because they would act as a humanitarian safety net.

He said two cutters currently deployed overseas would be brought back to Britain in a bid to step up enforcement of the route.

"As Home Secretary I have a duty to protect the UK border as well as a duty to protect human life," he said.

"Anyone crossing the Channel – one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world – is taking a huge risk with their life. Whatever your motivations are, no one wants to see a tragedy. We have already seen children as young as 9 on these boats.

"That is one of the reasons I have taken the decision to redeploy two Border Force vessels – known as cutters – which are currently based abroad to the UK. They will be on hand to help patrol the Channel alongside a Border Force cutter and two smaller coastal patrol vessels currently stationed there."

The two patrol ships had been working on anti-people smuggling and rescue operations in Greece, which has received hundreds of thousands of migrants over the past five years.

According to the Home Office, 539 people attempted to travel to the UK on small boats in 2018.

The department said around 80 per cent of those had tried to make the journey in the last three months of the year, with 227 interecepted by French authorities before making it to the UK.

Some Conservative MPs had been calling on the Home Secretary to draft in support from the Navy, but Mr Javid - who on Monday chaired a meeting of British authorities including the National Crime Agency and Border Force - said there was "no single solution" to the problem.

"We need to continue to work closely with the National Crime Agency and French counterparts to target the organised crime gangs behind these dangerous attempts and stop boats before they leave French waters – as well as working upstream to prevent migrants making these perilous journeys in the first place," he said.

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