Defence chiefs are considering a formal request from the Home Office for naval support to deal with migrants attempting to cross the English Channel in small boats.
The call for the Royal Navy to assist Border Force in the Dover Straits came as the Government faces increasing pressure to deal with record numbers of people trying to make the perilous journey.
Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed to make the route used by asylum seekers “unviable” but conceded there are “legislative, legal and operational barriers” to stopping the boats.
However, ministers were warned of potentially fatal capsizings and legal challenges after it emerged they were considering blocking boats in the Channel before they enter British waters.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Saturday that it is “working hard to identify how we can most effectively assist” after receiving a request under the military aid to the civilian authorities (MACA) protocol.
“As ever, the MoD will do all it can to support HMG requirements,” a statement said.
Assistance likely to be under consideration includes surveillance, reconnaissance and command control.
But the request came after an MoD source told the PA news agency that any request for naval assistance would be “completely potty”.
“We don’t resort to deploying armed forces to deal with political failings,” the source said.