Politics

Fury as Priti Patel sends warships to tackle Channel boats in 'Partygate distraction'


The Tory Home Secretary confirmed the Royal Navy will be sent into the Channel – as a charity accused Boris Johnson of ‘trying to protect his own career by bullying defenceless people’

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent

Charities have blasted plans to deploy the Royal Navy to the Channel to tackle migrants crossing from France.

Warships are set to be sent into the Dover Strait – triggering claims Boris Johnson is trying to distract attention from the Downing Street Partygate scandal.

Officials are also said to be drawing up fresh plans to process asylum applications in countries such as Ghana and Rwanda.

Home Secretary Priti Patel insisted: “This Government considers all options in terms of outsourcing, processing and how we actually remove as well people with no legal basis to be in our country.”
She added: “It matters not which countries, we will continue to discuss this with a range of countries because I, as Home Secretary, and this Government are absolutely determined to fix what is a decades-long problem of a very broken asylum system.”

But former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott told MPs: “Having people processed hundreds and thousands of miles away might meet the letter of our obligation to asylum seekers but it certainly doesn’t meet the spirit.”

Sending asylum seekers to offshore centres would involve striking deals with willing host nations before corralling migrants, who have usually crossed several countries before reaching the UK, onto specially-chartered planes leaving the UK.

Agreeing deals with foreign nations would potentially cost hundreds of millions of pounds, while forcing migrants onto flights would also create security issues.

Previous plans for applications to be processed on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic or in Albania were shelved.

Albanian PM Edi Rama said he would “never receive refugees for richer countries”.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman today said it was “not helpful” to discuss ongoing negotiations.

The Navy is to take over command of the operation to stop Channel crossings from the Border Force within weeks.







Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed the move
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Image:

UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Imag)

At least 28,431 migrants successfully made the voyage last year – trebling the total from 2020.

But 27 people were killed two months ago when their inflatable dinghy sank off Calais.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “Unacceptable numbers of people continue to make the dangerous Channel crossings and last November’s tragic deaths serve as the strongest reminder of the need to stop them.”

Ms Patel told the Commons: “I have developed new operational solutions to illegal boat arrivals.

“I can confirm this is a whole government effort and as a result I can confirm I have commissioned the MoD as a crucial operational partner to protect our Channel against illegal migration.”

But it was unclear whether offshore patrol vessels, frigates, destroyers or even aircraft carriers would be deployed.

Former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West said sending in warships would not prevent migrants attempting the perilous journeys.

He said: “I don’t think it makes any difference really to the problem of more coming across because if I was a people trafficker, I would say to them all, ‘Get in your little boat and go out there, the Royal Navy is now in control of all of the shipping that is looking out for you, you will be picked up and then you will be taken to Britain and then you’re pretty well on your way’.”

Charities hit out at the military response.

Care4Calais founder Clare Moseley said: “The people we work with in Calais are ordinary men and women who have simply had the misfortune to be born in a country that is much more dangerous than ours. They have done nothing wrong.

“They are not a ‘threat’ and a military response is not just disproportionate, it’s inhumane.

“The pressure on Johnson is growing and it’s deeply offensive that he is trying to protect his own career by bullying defenceless people. Our country can do better than this.”

Safe Passage International slammed “ill-advised schemes”.

Chief executive Beth Gardiner-Smith said: “Navy or no navy, people will risk dangerous journeys in search of sanctuary, family and the opportunity to rebuild their lives until the Government opens safe routes for refugees.”

Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon said “using the military to repel” asylum seekers “and seeking to expel them offshore is cruel and inhumane”.

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