Britain calls up military to stem flow of illegal immigration in the English Channel

People thought to be migrants disembark from a British Border Force patrol boat after being picked up from a dingy in the English Channel in Dover harbour , England, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

The U.K. Royal Navy is expected to take control of operations taking place in the English Channel to reduce the influx of illegal immigration to Britain from mainland Europe, the U.K. government has announced.

The move by Boris Johnson’s administration — reported by some U.K. media outlets as a distraction from the current PR storm engrossing Downing Street over pandemic parties — will see the military take command of U.K. Border Force vessels, which many have criticized as being too lenient in their willingness to escort migrants located at sea back to Britain.

A total of 28,395 migrants landed on the southeast coast of England last year, a record figure and triple the number reported in 2020. This was despite Britain and France agreeing on a deal to suppress the migrant arrivals, with British taxpayers paying upwards of €60 million to the French to help deal with the problem at its source.

Migrants pack their belongings in a camp in Grande-Synthe, Northern France, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Louis Witter)

In addition, the operation which will now be run by the Ministry of Defence will be able to rely on Royal Air Force patrol aircraft and drones, which are expected to be deployed across U.K. territorial waters to identify crossing attempts.

The move was welcomed by a source at the U.K. Home Office, who told MailOnline that Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel “has been asking for military defense of UK territorial waters since August 2020 and after months and months of wrangling in Whitehall, the PM has agreed with her that we need a change in operational posture.”

Other measures being considered by the Conservative government, which were reported by the U.K. broadsheet, The Times, include plans to send illegal migrants who arrive in Britain to countries such as Ghana and Rwanda for processing, rather than rewarding their illegal activity and propping up the business plans of people smugglers by allowing them to reside in Britain. Individuals who do not meet the country’s requirements for asylum will from there be resettled or returned home.

Critics of the plans include Enver Solomon, the CEO of the Refugee Council, who described them as “cruel and inhumane.

“It’s a desperate move by a government that isn’t able to find solutions that will ensure an orderly, manageable and fair asylum system,” he added.

The measures have been dubbed Operation Red Meat by some in the British press and opposition, who believe an ever more desperate Boris Johnson has strategically announced the proposals to deflect from his own shortcomings in office, and to hold out an olive branch to right-wing Conservative backbenchers who are growing disillusioned with his leadership.

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