Ministers AXE plans to turn migrant boats around in the Channel
Plans to use ‘pushback’ tactics against small boats in the Channel have been ditched by the Home Office, the immigration minister confirmed this week.
Robert Jenrick said analysis showed there were only ‘limited circumstances’ in which the turnaround idea could be deployed against dinghies.
He said the proposals were ‘currently withdrawn’ and there were ‘no current plans’ to bring them into operation.
Another 426 migrants crossed the Channel on Monday – the most in a fortnight. It brings the total since the start of the year to 42,588, compared with 28,526 in all of 2021.
The minister’s comments appeared to draw a final line under the pushback measures, which the French government insists break international maritime law.
It would have seen migrant dinghies intercepted in the Channel and sent back to France. Alternatively, passengers would have been transferred to UK Border Force vessels and delivered to a French port.
Former home secretary Priti Patel conceded in April – as the Ministry of Defence took control of UK operations in the Channel – that turnaround tactics had been put to one side. But she insisted they would remain under review.
Jenrick said in a parliamentary written answer: ‘There are limited circumstances in which small boats can be turned around safely in the English Channel.
‘In view of this, the policy is currently withdrawn and there are no current plans for the turnaround tactics to be reintroduced under defence primacy.’
Parliament passed legislation earlier this year introducing powers allowing small boats to be turned back. The Home Office even spent tens of thousands of pounds on specialist maritime gear to enforce the policy. UK Border Force purchased gear last year to tangle the propellers of boats in the Channel.
Other purchases included a life raft that cocoons small boats while occupants are removed.
Equipment was tested on the Channel but has never been deployed.
The MoD’s involvement in small boat operations is due to be reviewed in the New Year.
Amid record numbers arriving across the Channel, ministers are likely to approve a significant extension to the armed forces’ role in the operation.