Royal Navy 'set to back out' of patrolling Channel against illegal migrant crossings

16 August 2022, 09:06

The Royal Navy is reportedly said to back out of patrolling the Channel to deter migrants
The Royal Navy is reportedly going to back out of patrolling the Channel to deter migrants. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

The Royal Navy is planning to stop patrolling the English Channel to prevent people illegally crossing to the UK from France.

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Ministers have been told by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that the Navy is planning to stop the patrols on January 31 unless action is taken to alleviate concerns.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced only a short time back in April that the Royal Navy would take over the channel patrols from Border Force.

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"In addition to the existing taskforce of patrol vessels, helicopters, search and rescue aircraft, drones and remotely piloted aircraft, this will send a clear message to those piloting the boats," Mr Johnson said at a speech in Kent.

"If you risk other people's lives in the Channel, you risk spending your own life in prison."

He added that the move would make sure "no boat makes it to the UK undetected".

Both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have pledged to tackle cross-Channel migration
Both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have pledged to tackle cross-Channel migration. Picture: Getty

The Telegraph reports that the Royal Navy will relinquish responsibility for tackling cross-Channel migration "unless there are ministerial actions".

MPs have also raised concerns that the scheme is diverting resources from other military duties, and turning the Navy into a "taxi service".

Both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have pledged to make tackling cross-channel migration a top priority should they become Prime Minister.

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More than 20,000 people have been detected crossing the English Channel in small boats so far this year, Government figures show.

Some 607 were detected on Saturday - the third time the total has topped 600 since the start of 2022.

It takes the provisional total for the year to 20,017 - nearly double by the same point last year.

There were 28,526 crossings detected in total in 2021.

The Royal Navy's HMS Example patrolling the English Channel on June 16
The Royal Navy's HMS Example patrolling the English Channel on June 16. Picture: Getty

It is four months since Priti Patel unveiled controversial plans to send migrants to Rwanda to try to deter people from crossing the Channel.

Since then 14,749 people have arrived in the UK after making the journey.

On April 14 Ms Patel signed what she described as a "world-first" agreement with Rwanda under which the east African nation will receive migrants deemed by the UK to have arrived "illegally" and are therefore inadmissible under new immigration rules.

But the first deportation flight - due to take off on June 14 - was grounded after a number of legal challenges.

Several asylum seekers, the Public and Commercial Services union and charities Care4Calais, Detention Action and Asylum Aid are challenging the legality of the Home Office policy, with the next court hearings due in September and October.

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The number of people reaching the UK in small boats from France after navigating busy shipping lanes has increased rapidly in recent years.

Some 299 were detected in 2018, followed by 1,843 in 2019, 8,466 in 2020 and 28,526 last year, official figures show.

A record 1,185 people made the crossing to the UK on November 11 2021 - the highest number recorded since the start of 2020.

Despite the growing numbers, the UK's small boat arrivals are a fraction of the number of people going to Europe.

Data from the UN's refugee agency shows at least 120,441 people arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean by land and sea in 2021.

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