'Armoured jet skis to be used by Border Force' to spin back migrant boats

11 September 2021, 15:06

The jet skis will reportedly be used to turn boats around mid-crossing.
The jet skis will reportedly be used to turn boats around mid-crossing. Picture: Alamy

By Elizabeth Haigh

Priti Patel is said to have authorised plans for armoured jet skis, or "personal water craft", to spin migrant boats attempting to cross the channel around mid-crossing.

The Home Secretary has reportedly overseen the final stages of a Border Force training programme which sees officers physically rotate boats in the channel.

The manoeuvre requires two jet skis, with one pushing the boat from its bow, and a second nudging the stern, to spin it around.

Under the plans, reported by The Sun, the jet skis would then escort the boat back to French waters under the assumption that migrants with no sailing expertise will not be able to turn it back towards the UK.

Read more: France and UK clash over ‘dangerous and illegal' plans to block migrant crossings

Read more: 'Extreme, illegal, cowardly': Patel's 'pushback' tactics for migrant boats condemned

Former Navy chief Admiral Lord West said the strategy could be dangerous.

"It's an accident waiting to happen. It's not clever and it is problematic."

He added that if sea conditions were not calm, or those on board do not cooperate with Border Force officers, boats could capsize.

Officers are already using jet skis to patrol the channel, but this would be the first time they would be used to intervene in crossings.

This follows plans to spend £200 million on a fleet of border patrol boats to try and stop migrants from crossing the channel.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told LBC this morning that the Home Secretary is "rightly exploring every possible avenue" to address the situation.

Read more: Desperate migrants kiss British soil after making perilous trip across the Channel

It comes after the Home Secretary told G7 leaders she will authorise Border Force to use "pushback tactics" to prevent migrants from reaching the UK.

France's Interior Minister Gerard Darminin has claimed the pushback policy would be "contrary to international law".

Meanwhile Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: "That the home secretary is even considering these dangerous proposals shows how badly she has lost control of this situation."

LBC contacted the Home Office requesting confirmation of its plans. A Home Office Spokesperson said: "We are seeing an unacceptable rise in dangerous and unnecessary small boat crossings, that’s why we continue to explore all options available to bring these numbers down.

"Our primary focus is on preventing people from entering the Channel, tackling the criminal gangs responsible and protecting lives.  

"As part of our ongoing operational response, we continue to evaluate and test a range of safe and legal options for stopping small boats.

"All operational procedures used at sea comply and are delivered in accordance with domestic and international law.

"We will fix the broken asylum system through our New Plan for Immigration, break the business model of people smugglers who put lives at risk and welcome people through safe and legal routes and as agreed at G7 we continue to cooperate with our international partners."