Priti Patel’s plans to send in the Royal Navy plans to tackle Channel migrant crossings have ‘more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese’, a Ministry of Defence source has claimed.
Speculation that home secretary had drafted in the navy to patrol the world’s busiest shipping lane came as at least 235 migrants made the dangerous journey on Thursday in 17 boats, setting a new single day record.
Crossings continued on Friday as calm waters remained amid warm and sunny weather, with families including children who were too young to walk, and pregnant women spotted on board boats.
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Patel’s spokesman confirmed considering navy support was one of the potential options being considered, alongside discussions on bolstering Border Force resources in the Channel.
But a Ministry of Defence (MoD) source said the ‘completely potty’ idea could put people’s lives at risk.
They described the suggestion of such action as ‘inappropriate and unnecessary’, saying that military resources should not been drawn upon to address ‘political failings’.
They branded it ‘impractical and unnecessary’, telling the PA News Agency: ‘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.’
Former Border Force chief Tony Smith said extra resources may not solve the problem as the navy would ‘be in the same boat as Border Force in terms of policy. The only powers we have are search and rescue and that is what we have been doing’.
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 details on gender and nationality.
So far the department 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.