United Kingdom

'Furious' Priti Patel backs sending the Royal Navy to tackle the migrant crisis

A ‘furious’ Priti Patel last night backed sending Royal Navy patrols into the English Channel after a record number of migrants reached Britain.

Officials have been ordered to draw up plans in which, for the first time, the Navy could turn back boats.

Yesterday up to 250 migrants made the perilous crossing – the highest daily total since the crisis began, surpassing the previous record of 202 set on Thursday last week.

The number who have reached Britain so far this year is now already double the total who arrived in the whole of 2019.

On Thursday up to 250 migrants crossed the channel – the highest daily total since the crisis began, surpassing the previous record of 202 set on Thursday last week

A ‘furious’ Priti Patel backed sending Royal Navy patrols into the English Channel on Thursday night after the record number of migrants reached Britain

The number who have reached Britain so far this year is now already double the total who arrived in the whole of 2019

Nearly 3,950 migrants made the crossing in small boats in the first 219 days of 2020 – compared with 1,850 last year.

The crisis is a personal blow for the Home Secretary, who made a pledge last October that crossings would be virtually eliminated by now.

A Home Office source said: ‘The final straw was this record number, which led the Home Secretary to demand this new initiative. The real solution must come from the French – we want the French to take them back.’ 

Last night sources said Navy vessels could now begin turning migrant boats back to France in a major escalation of tactics.

Immigration still too high – poll 

More than half of Britons think immigration is still too high despite years of Tory promises to bring it down, a study said yesterday.

It warned Boris Johnson that if his points-based immigration system allows a wave of mass immigration, then voters will turn against him.

The study from the Migration Watch UK think-tank said most recent polling found that 54 per cent think immigration has been too high over the past decade.

Only 5 per cent think it has been too low. And more than six in ten said they believe the Government has been mishandling immigration policies.

The analysis found that fears over the effects of large-scale immigration became a major concern after Tony Blair opened the doors to millions from both inside and outside the European Union.

Worries declined after David Cameron came to power in 2010 promising to cut immigration back to 1990s levels and subsided further after the 2016 Brexit referendum. 

The report said: ‘Most continue to have strong views about a perceived lack of effective immigration control.’

Mrs Patel has told MPs she has obtained legal advice that such a move would be legal under international maritime law.

But the tactic would be highly controversial and risk alienating the French government, which has told Britain it believes it to be illegal.

Other emergency measures being considered by the Home Office include using Navy vessels to block the path of migrant boats.

It is understood smaller military craft would be used, rather than larger vessels such as frigates or destroyers. The Royal Marines could play a key role, sources said. 

British forces could also use nets to entangle propellers or floating ‘booms’ to block the way for migrants dinghies.

Both methods were tested in secret trials in May and June involving Navy ships and Border Force boats.

A Government source said: ‘These are all options that are being considered. The Home Secretary is furious about this daily total, which we think is as high as 250.

‘She has instructed her officials to speak to the Ministry of Defence about how we can proceed. She has also requested a discussion with the French interior minister, Gerald Darmanin.’

Civil servants from both departments have conducted initial talks and the Home Secretary may follow these up with a formal request for assistance from the Ministry of Defence. 

Yesterday’s arrivals included at least ten young children and a heavily-pregnant woman, who were aboard a boat which landed on Dungeness beach in Kent.

One of the children, a boy aged around four, looked exhausted as he lay back on the pebble beach with his arms spread out. The heavily-pregnant woman was wearing a black dress and face mask as she held the hand of a child.

She looked weary and had her head in her hand at one point, after being picked up by a lifeboat.

Amateur photographer Susan Pilcher, who saw the group on the beach, said: ‘I could hear the Border Force workers asking the woman how many months pregnant she was, and she replied “eight”.

Mrs Pilcher added: ‘When you think she’s doing such a risky crossing over the Channel when she’s heavily pregnant, that says how much they’ve been through.’

A British patrol boat also towed a kayak into the Port of Dover yesterday.

A group of around 16 migrants including 10 kids and an eight-month pregnant woman landed on Dungeness beach, Kent, today

Nigel Farage took to his Twitter feed to share an exclusive video of migrants arriving in the UK, including several children

The Home Secretary has said she wants ‘stronger enforcement’ on the other side of the Channel and has been trying to persuade the French government to allow migrant boats to be turned back. 

She said last year that a previous deal with the French would make crossings an ‘infrequent phenomenon’ by this spring.

It came as an inquiry was launched into the crisis by the Commons all-party home affairs committee.

MPs will begin their investigation when Parliament returns at the start of September.

A committee spokesman said: ‘The inquiry will look at the role of criminal gangs in facilitating the growth of this form of illegal immigration and the response of UK and French authorities to combat illegal migration and support legal routes to asylum.’

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