UK deploys extra navy, air assets to stop Channel migrants

LONDON (AFP) – British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said yesterday additional navy personnel and aircraft were being sent to help tackle a sharp rise in migrant crossings of the Channel.

The deployment of “specialist personnel from the Royal Navy” and a third air force plane to conduct surveillance followed a request for support from the interior ministry.

“These dangerous crossings ultimately put people’s lives in danger and it is right that we support the Border Force by providing specialist capabilities of defence, and our expert personnel to stop this criminal behaviour,” Wallace said in a statement.

More than 1,000 migrants have arrived on Britain’s shores in the last 10 days after crossing the Channel in small boats, according to analysis by the domestic Press Association news agency.

The issue is politically-charged in the United Kingdom (UK), with the country’s right-wing newspapers decrying the arrivals and many ruling Conservative lawmakers calling for tougher border enforcement. Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week called the crossings “very bad and stupid and dangerous”.

He has vowed to change legislation that he said made it “very, very difficult” to deport migrants “even though blatantly they’ve come here illegally.”

Meanwhile, his immigration minister held talks with counterparts in Paris on Tuesday amid calls for the government to increase pressure on France to prevent migrants arriving in UK waters.

French maritime authorities said yesterday they had rescued 31 migrants, including three children and an infant, who were trying to cross the Channel in small boats.

It followed 38 migrants being picked up by French officials in the waterway – the busiest in the world – on Friday.

However, cross-Channel relations could be harmed by reports Interior Minister Priti Patel had told fellow Conservative MPs that migrants were coming to Britain because they believe France is a “racist country” where they may be “tortured”.