RAF aircraft deployed to English Channel over migrant crossings

12 August 2020, 16:27

The RAF has been assisting with monitoring the migrant crossings situation
The RAF has been assisting with monitoring the migrant crossings situation. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

A Royal Air Force P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft has flown from Kinloss Barracks in Scotland to support Border Force Operations in the English Channel, the Ministry of Defence has said.

This follows a weekend of record small boat crossings across the busy shipping lane, as hot weather and calm seas created preferable conditions for the journey.

The deployment of the 130ft plane is the second time this week the MOD have provided air support to Border Force operations in the Channel.

READ MORE: France and Britain agree £30m plan to make migrant boat crossings “unviable”

On Monday an RAF A400M Atlas Aircraft was authorised by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to provide surveillance over the Channel as part of an “initial offer of assistance” to the Home Office.

The MOD described today’s “maritime patrol flight” as “part of the ongoing package of MOD assistance to the Home Office”.

At least 12 migrants arrived at the port of Dover in Kent on Wednesday morning aboard Border Force boat Eagle and were helped ashore by officials in masks and fluorescent jackets.

This brings the total number of migrants who have made the perilous crossing in small boats across the Channel to over 4,000 this year, including nearly 600 in the last week.

The RAF flights follow growing pressure from Conservative backbenchers for action on the crossings, with 23 Tory MPs and two peers sending a letter to UK Immigration Minister Chris Philip calling for the government to do “whatever it takes” to deal with the problem.

After discussions in Paris on Tuesday Mr Philip announced that France and Britain have agreed a “comprehensive” new plan to tackle the rising number of migrants crossing the Channel.

The deal will likely see the UK tax-payer hand over another £30 million to pay for the French authorities to take tougher enforcement action to crack down on policing the sea border.

While Mr Philp would not comment on details of the plan he said there were a "number of measures, some of them new, which are under discussion".

Separately from his discussions with the French government, the Immigration Minister has become embroiled in an argument with ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s on Twitter, with the Minister telling the company to “Stick to ice cream.”

Yesterday the frozen dessert giant became the latest to criticise the government’s policy on asylum seekers, posting on Twitter: “Hey @PritiPatel, we think the real crisis is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture.

“Let’s remember we’re all human and have the same rights to life regardless of the country we happen to have been born in.

“And once more for the back: PEOPLE CANNOT BE ILLEGAL.”