Royal Navy is acting as 'tour guide for illegal migrants' crossing the Channel
The Royal Navy has been reduced to acting as ‘tour guides for illegal migrants’ in the Channel, MPs were told this week.
Since April, its vessels have escorted all but one of the boats operated by people smugglers, according to official figures.
The Navy’s reassuring presence has made the crossing safer, thereby encouraging more migrants to set off. Some 3,139 migrants arrived last month.
It also emerged how the refusal by senior Navy officers to blockade British waters triggered a major row between government departments.
Earlier this year Home Secretary Priti Patel gave the Navy ‘primacy’ for security.
She expected its ships to protect the UK’s seas – including the ‘push back’ of migrant vessels. But the Navy refused to turn around boats and has accordingly been reduced to an escorting role in the Channel, leading MPs to question the purpose of its involvement
Labour MP John Spellar told a parliamentary committee the Navy was acting as ‘tour guides for illegal migrants to get them to our shores’.
But Armed Forces minister James Heappey said that the remark was ‘unfair’. He insisted the Home Secretary’s plan, which was backed by Boris Johnson, was ‘inappropriate’.
He said: ‘We were asked to explore it [the push back] but our analysis was that it was inappropriate.
‘We won the argument. The evidence supplied by mariners in the Royal Navy made the case for not doing it.
‘There were some trials down near Weymouth involving the Royal Marines but it didn’t get further than that.’
Around 200 Navy personnel, mostly drawn from its Home Waters Squadron, have been involved in migrant operations since April.