Johnson signs off plan to put military in charge of tackling migrant crossings

More detailed information on how the plan would work is yet to be provided, and questions have gone unanswered.

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent, after being rescued by the RNLI lifeboat following a small boat incident in the Channel
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent, after being rescued by the RNLI lifeboat following a small boat incident in the Channel

The military will be put in charge of tackling the number of boats crossing the Channel in a move signed off by the Prime Minister.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to take over command of the operation from the Border Force within weeks, according to The Times and Daily Mail.

The department confirmed the Government is exploring “every avenue” to prevent more crossings, while the Home Office said it was introducing “necessary long-term changes”.

More detailed information on how the plan would work is yet to be provided, and questions have gone unanswered.

Labour accused Boris Johnson of trying to “distract from the total mess he is in” amid reports of Covid law-breaking parties at Number 10, while campaigners branded the plans “cruel and inhumane”.

A spokesman for the MoD 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.”

On November 24 2021, an inflatable dinghy carrying migrants from France to the United Kingdom capsized in the Channel, killing 27 of the 30 people on board.

“The Government is exploring every avenue to prevent further crossings and details of how that can be achieved will be made known in due course,” the spokesman said.

The Home Office added: “The UK armed forces already work closely with Border Force in these operations, providing expertise and assets as part of our processes in the Channel. It is right that we pursue all options to prevent illegal crossings and protect life at sea.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said the Government has failed to carry out the “serious, practical work with France that is needed to stop lives being lost and criminal gangs profiting from dangerous Channel crossings”.

She said: “Instead, this looks like Boris Johnson is using the situation to chase headlines to distract from the total mess he is in as a result of rule-breaking parties in Number 10.

“The Government brought the Navy in to patrol the Channel three years ago in 2019. HMS Enterprise and HMS Mersey did not intercept a single boat and the cost to the Home Office was £780,000. They need to explain what is different in these latest plans.

“They’ve announced pushbacks that they’ve now admitted won’t work and keep reannouncing offshore processing, even though no other country has agreed to it and it was incredibly costly and damaging when tried in Australia. Time and again they have gone for headlines rather than hard work to tackle this serious issue.”

The Times also reported plans are being drawn up to send migrants to countries such as Ghana and Rwanda for processing and resettlement, but this has not been confirmed.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “The men, women and children coming across the Channel who have faced great peril are seeking safety in the UK.

“We know two-thirds are allowed to stay in the UK as refugees. Prime ministers since Churchill have always given people fleeing persecution and bloodshed a fair hearing on UK soil. Using the military to repel them and seeking to expel them offshore is cruel and inhumane.

“It’s a desperate move by a government that isn’t able to find solutions that will ensure an orderly, manageable and fair asylum system.”

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