Government threatens 'maritime assets' to deter migrants

August 07, 2020

The government has threatened to deploy "maritime assets", reported to include the Royal Navy, to stem the growing number of migrants trying to cross the English Channel.

Sources told Sky News the response may be scaled up after a record 235 people in 17 boats were intercepted trying to land on the Kent coast on Thursday.

As more migrant boats were intercepted in the Channel on Friday morning, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told Sky News he is "frustrated" about the situation.

He said the immigration minister would visit France next week to discuss ways to "increase co-operation and intelligence sharing to police crossings".

"We all want to see these crossings reduced," he said.

"We remain committed to making sure that happens."

Government sources confirmed to Sky News that the Home Office is "looking at what maritime assets" it may need to deal with the issue.

Reports in several newspapers said the Navy could be sent in to turn back migrant boats but the government has tried to downplay this.

However, Mr Sunak refused to deny the Navy could be used, telling Sky News: "I wouldn't want to speculate on exactly what measures will be put in place.

"It's important that we work closely with our French allies on this situation.

"Obviously France is a safe country for migrants to be. We all want to see these crossings reduced and, pending the outcomes of those conversations, we can decide on the best next steps to take."

As the warm weather continues on England's south coast, Sky News understands there were at least eight further incidents of boats carrying migrants being intercepted in the Channel on Friday morning.

A pregnant woman is believed to be among those rescued.

The rising number of migrants making the risky crossing over the Channel has risen as evictions from the Calais "jungle" migrant camp in France are said to have reached their highest numbers since 2016 - something the Calais authorities deny.

Human rights charity Detention Action accused the Home Office of having "lost control" after Thursday's record number of crossings.

The charity's director, Bella Sankey, said: "The Home Office has lost control and all credibility on this issue, fuelling chaos, criminality and untold trauma for those who feel forced to make these dangerous crossings.

"Trying to make this route 'unviable' through greater enforcement is naive grandstanding and amounts to more of the same.

"What is needed is recognition that people who reach France will have valid claims to protection in the UK and the urgent development of safe and legal routes for them to do so.

"This would end the crossings overnight and ensure we are standing by our age-old tradition of protecting those seeking sanctuary on our shores."

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