Sending in navy to tackle migrant crossings branded a ‘completely potty’ idea

Sending in the Royal Navy to tackle the surge in Channel migrant crossings has been branded a "completely potty" idea which could put people's lives at risk.

A Ministry of Defence source described the suggestion of such action as "inappropriate and unnecessary", saying that military resources should not been drawn upon to address "political failings".

Speculation that the Home Secretary Priti Patel had drafted in the navy to patrol the world's busiest shipping lane came as at least 235 migrants made the dangerous journey across the world's busiest shipping lane on Thursday in 17 boats, setting a new single day record.

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Migrant crossings in Channel reach record high
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Migrant crossings in Channel reach record high
A Border Force vessel brings a group of people thought to be migrants into the port city of Dover, England, from small boats, Friday Aug. 7, 2020. The British government says it will strengthen border measures as calm summer weather has prompted a record number of people to attempt the risky sea crossing in small vessels, from northern France to England. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
A Border Force officer helps a child from a Border Force vessel as a group of people thought to be migrants are brought into the port city of Dover, England, from small boats, Friday Aug. 7, 2020. The British government says it will strengthen border measures as calm summer weather has prompted a record number of people to attempt the risky sea crossing in small vessels, from northern France to England. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
Border Force officers escort a group of men thought to be migrants to a waiting bus, after they were brought into the port city of Dover, England, from small boats, Friday Aug. 7, 2020. There have been a number of small boat incidents over recent days, with some unseaworthy vessels trying to make the journey from France across The Channel, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
Border Force officers escort a group of men thought to be migrants to a waiting bus, after they were brought into the port city of Dover, England, from small boats, Friday Aug. 7, 2020. There have been a number of small boat incidents over recent days, with some unseaworthy vessels trying to make the journey from France across The Channel, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
Border Force officers escort a group of men thought to be migrants to a waiting bus, after they were brought into the port city of Dover, England, from small boats, Friday Aug. 7, 2020. There have been a number of small boat incidents over recent days, with some unseaworthy vessels trying to make the journey from France across The Channel, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
A group of migrants rest on the beach as they wait for Uk Border Force officials at Dungeness, southern England, Thursday Aug. 6 2020. The British government says it will strengthen border measures as calm summer weather has prompted a record number of people to make the risky sea crossing in small vessels, from northern France to England. (AP Photo / Susan Pilcher)
A pregnant woman among a group of migrants as they rest on the beach waiting for Uk Border Force officials at Dungeness, southern England, Thursday Aug. 6 2020. The British government says it will strengthen border measures as calm summer weather has prompted a record number of people to attempt the risky sea crossing in small vessels, from northern France to England. (AP Photo / Susan Pilcher)
A group of migrants rest on the beach as they wait for Uk Border Force officials at Dungeness, southern England, Thursday Aug. 6 2020. The British government says it will strengthen border measures as calm summer weather has prompted a record number of people to attempt the risky sea crossing in small vessels, from northern France to England. (AP Photo / Susan Pilcher)
A group of migrants rest on the beach as they wait for Uk Border Force officials at Dungeness, southern England, Thursday Aug. 6 2020. The British government says it will strengthen border measures as calm summer weather has prompted a record number of people to attempt the risky sea crossing in small vessels, from northern France to England. (AP Photo / Susan Pilcher)
A migrant rest on the beach, with others, as they wait for Uk Border Force officials at Dungeness, southern England, Thursday Aug. 6 2020. The British government says it will strengthen border measures as calm summer weather has prompted a record number of people to attempt the risky sea crossing in small vessels, from northern France to England. (AP Photo / Susan Pilcher)
A British Border Force vessel carries a group of men thought to be migrants into Dover harbour, Southern England, Tuesday Aug. 4, 2020. A number of incidents involving small boats crossing The Channel to Britain are reported over the past few days, as migrants take advantage of warm calm weather to cross the busy shipping lanes. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
EDITORS NOTE: IMAGE PIXELATED BY PA PICTURE DESK A Border Force vessel brings a group of people thought to be migrants into Dover, Kent, following a number of small boat incidents in The Channel.
EDITORS NOTE: IMAGE PIXELATED BY PA PICTURE DESK A Border Force officer helps a young boy from a Border Force vessel as a group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, following a number of small boat incidents in The Channel.
EDITORS NOTE: IMAGE PIXELATED BY PA PICTURE DESK A young girl is escorted by a Border Force officer as groups of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, following a number of small boat incidents in The Channel.
EDITORS NOTE: IMAGE PIXELATED BY PA PICTURE DESK A Border Force officer helps a young boy from a Border Force vessel as a group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, following a number of small boat incidents in The Channel.
A Border Force vessel brings a group of people thought to be migrants into Dover, Kent, following a number of small boat incidents in The Channel.
PIXELATED BY THE PA PICTURE DESK A young girl is carried by a Border Force officer as a group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, following a number of small boat incidents in The Channel earlier this morning.
Border Force officers escort a group of men thought to be migrants onto a waiting bus after they were brought into Dover, Kent, following a number of small boat incidents in The Channel earlier this morning.
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Crossings continued on Friday as calm waters remained amid warm and sunny weather, with young families and pregnant women spotted on board boats.

Some officials sought to distance themselves from suggestions of imminent navy action.

But the Home Secretary's spokesman confirmed considering navy support was one of the potential options being considered, alongside discussions on bolstering Border Force resources in the Channel.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is waiting for advice from officials and taking stock of the situation before taking the matter further, his spokesman said.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has an ongoing arrangement to offer military aid to civil authorities under a process known as MACA, he said, but this previously had been in the form of technical support and advice rather than "putting big boats in the Channel".

"The whole purpose of the MACA process is to determine what could be done and we would not want to pre-judge that", he added

Meanwhile, an MoD source told the PA news agency the idea of sending in the navy was "completely potty" and had "more holes in it than a slice of Swiss cheese".

They branded it "impractical and unnecessary" adding: "It is a completely inappropriate and disproportionate approach to take.

"We don't resort to deploying armed force to deal with political failings.

"It's beyond absurd to think that we should be deploying multi-million pound ships and elite soldiers to deal with desperate people barely staying afloat on rubber dinghies in the Channel.

"It could potentially put people's lives at even greater risk.

"Border Force is effectively the Home Office's own navy fleet, so it begs the question what are they doing."

Almost 4,000 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK so far this year, according to analysis by PA.

Migrant crossings failures
A record number of crossings took place on Thursday (Gareth Fuller/PA)

This is thought to be more than double the total for the whole of 2019 where fewer than 2,000 are believed to have arrived in the country.

The Home Secretary's spokesman said the "fantastic weather" was behind the surge despite ongoing efforts to prevent them while Immigration Minister Chris Philp said he shares "the anger and frustration of the public" at the "appalling number" of crossings.

Mr Philp is to visit France next week to speak with counterparts following a "constructive" meeting with the country's deputy ambassador earlier this week, the Home Secretary's spokesman added.

When asked why Ms Patel would not be attending the visit, her spokesman insisted she was "leading from the front" on efforts to tackle the crisis.

But Bella Sankey, the director of charity Detention Action, said the rising numbers showed the Home Office had "lost control and all credibility on this issue, fuelling chaos, criminality and untold trauma for those who feel forced to make these dangerous crossings."

She said resorting to tougher enforcement was "naive grandstanding", adding: "What is needed is recognition that people who reach France will have valid claims to protection in the UK and the urgent development of safe and legal routes for them to do so.

"This would end the crossings overnight."

Yvette Cooper, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said it was "particularly troubling to see children being put at risk".

The Home Office refuses to provide details of how many children are arriving, only providing details on gender and nationality.

So far it has been unable to provide a breakdown for Thursday's record total, saying officials are too busy dealing with Friday's incidents to respond to requests for further information.

The committee has launched an inquiry into the rise in crossings.

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