The UK government have stepped up their battle to combat the rise in migrant boats crossing the English Channel, as Home Secretary Sajid Javid calls in the Royal Navy to patrol the British coastline.
Javid wrote to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson on Wednesday night, requesting the assistance of the Navy, The Mirror reports. A Whitehall source told the paper that HMS Mersey, an offshore patrol vessel, is “available and ready right now” for deployment.
The move represents a significant escalation of Britain’s response to the migration issue. It is understood the ship is on routine exercises off the Southern coast of the UK at present and is on call to be diverted to assist in migrant operations when necessary, according to The Mirror.
Over 100 people, mostly Iranian, have been detained trying to cross the world’s busiest shipping lane in small boats, carrying between six and 12 people since Christmas Day.
During a visit to Dover on Wednesday as part of a seemingly hardline campaign against those seeking to enter the UK via the Southern coastline, Javid issued a stark warning and cast doubt on the legitimacy of their need to seek asylum.
The Home Secretary told Sky News: “If you are a genuine asylum seeker why have you not sought asylum in the first safe country that you arrived in?”
It led to claims from the Labour Party that such comments could breach the Geneva Convention. They also say his public reaction to the migrant issue has whipped up fear. Javid has tripled UK Border Force cutters patrolling the channel to three, after coming under pressure from MPs to act.
Critics of the UK government’s response point to the fact that 10,000 migrants were picked up from the Mediterranean sea in just two days in 2016, compared to the 539 known to have crossed the English Channel in 2018.
Home Office stats on migrant crossings:
* 539 migrants have attempted to come to the UK this year.
* 80% of them have made attempts in last three months.
* 42% were intecepted by French before they made it to the UK
— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) December 31, 2018
For context: the 539 people who attempted to cross the English Channel in small boats in 2018 would have added 0.006 percent to the stock of migrants in the UK if they all stayed.
If they’d all decided to live in Dover, they would have added 0.5 percent to the town’s population. https://t.co/NeXvBC7GgY
— Charles Kenny (@charlesjkenny) January 2, 2019
539? That’s hardly even a village. Jeez. What have we to be proud of as a country if we can’t allow a single tiny vilage’s worth of desperate people to cross the sea to reach us? https://t.co/gVrjDygyyw
— Matt Haig (@matthaig1) January 1, 2019
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson told the Evening Standard: “Our Armed Forces stand ready to provide additional capacity and expertise to assist the Home Office with the response to migrant crossings.
“Royal Navy ships continue to conduct patrols to protect the integrity of UK territorial waters.”
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