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Border Force jet skis practicing pushing back migrant boats in Channel, photos suggest
13 September 2021, 18:40 | Updated: 13 September 2021, 18:55
Border Force staff on jet skis have been practicing pushing back migrant boats in the English Channel, photos suggest.
Human rights monitoring group Channel Rescue posted images of alleged "pushback drills" on social media on Monday.
The organisation added on Twitter: "They’ve replicated how dinghies are packed while crossing. A jet ski just bumped the rear of the dinghy and turned it around. We're almost certain it's a pushback practice."
The Home Officer did not deny the claims, saying: "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."
It comes days after reports Priti Patel has authorised plans for armoured jet skis to spin migrant boats around mid-crossing.
The Home Secretary is said to have 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 migrants with no sailing expertise will not be able to turn it back towards the UK.
Channel Rescue said in a statement: "Today two of our volunteers witnessed a Border Force training exercise in which pushbacks were being rehearsed.
"Our volunteers witnessed dinghies, full of Border Force staff wearing life jackets, being forcibly turned around by two or three jet skis.
"The practice of pushbacks, however, is illegal under international and maritime law.
"This aggressive and violent behaviour puts the lives of those making the crossing at greater risk. Channel Rescue condemns this practice as reckless endangerment."
A Home Office spokesperson said: "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."
It was revealed on Monday that a record-breaking number of migrants arrived in the UK last week, with nearly 2,000 making the journey across the Channel.