Javid or­ders our ves­sels back from the Med to tackle cri­sis

Daily Express - - Front Page - By Mar­tyn Brown

MI­GRANTS at­tempt­ing to cross the Chan­nel will be res­cued then re­turned im­me­di­ately to France af­ter Home Sec­re­tary Sa­jid Javid beefed up bor­der pa­trols last night.

Two Bor­der Force cut­ters were scram­bled from the Mediter­ranean in re­sponse to the grow­ing cri­sis which has seen al­most 100

mi­grants make the per­ilous sea cross­ing over the Christ­mas pe­riod.

Mr Javid made the an­nounce­ment af­ter a dozen mi­grants, in­clud­ing a 10-year-old child, were de­tained af­ter land­ing on a Kent beach yes­ter­day.

He had re­sisted calls for more boats amid fears it would en­cour­age il­le­gal cross­ings due to the in­creased chance of a safe res­cue.

But af­ter a meet­ing with Bor­der Force, Na­tional Crime Agency and White­hall of­fi­cials to dis­cuss the cri­sis for sev­eral hours, there was a change of ap­proach.

Mr Javid ex­plained: “This re­mains a very se­ri­ous con­cern to me. That’s why I de­clared it a ma­jor in­ci­dent a few days ago. It’s both about pro­tect­ing hu­man life but also about pro­tect­ing our bor­ders.

“When it comes to hu­man life, clearly I want to make sure we are do­ing all we can to pro­tect peo­ple.

“This is one of the most treach­er­ous stretches of water there is, 21 miles with peo­ple tak­ing a grave risk, re­ally putting their lives into their own hands.”

He added: “I have made a de­ci­sion to­day to re­de­ploy two of the Bor­der Force’s largest ves­sels, known as cut­ters, from abroad back to the UK, to south-east Eng­land, and they will be join­ing a cut­ter al­ready there and two other coastal pa­trol ves­sels.”

One cut­ter, HMC Seeker, is ex­pected to be re­de­ployed from Gi­bral­tar with one of two cut­ters pa­trolling the eastern Mediter­ranean, HMC Valiant and HMC Pro­tec­tor. They will join HMC Vig­i­lant al­ready in the English Chan­nel.

Mr Javid said ef­forts were also be­ing stepped up to tackle peo­ple traf­fick­ers and to re­turn mi­grants who reach Eng­land back to France.

He said: “I wish there was one sin­gle an­swer but it does re­quire ac­tion on many fronts.”

Co-op­er­a­tion with the French au­thor­i­ties is im­prov­ing. About 40 per cent of at­tempted cross­ings have been dis­rupted, with both coun­tries work­ing to­gether “di­rectly but also in more covert ways”.

In a mes­sage to would-be mi­grants, he said: “We will do ev­ery­thing we can to make sure it is not a suc­cess. I don’t want peo­ple to think that if they leave a safe coun­try like France they can get to Bri­tain and then just get to stay.

“That’s why I am work­ing out ways with the French to in­crease the num­ber of re­turns to send a very strong mes­sage that we will do all we can not just to pro­tect hu­man lives but also pro­tect our bor­ders.”

The news comes af­ter Mr Javid, widely re­garded as fron­trun­ner to be­come Tory leader af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, cut short his fam­ily hol­i­day in South Africa to deal with the es­ca­lat­ing cri­sis.

Char­lie El­ph­icke, Tory MP for Dover, gave his back­ing to last night’s an­nounce­ment. He said: “I wel­come the move to bring back our cut­ters to help main­tain safety and se­cu­rity on our bor­ders. This is some­thing I have been call­ing for and am de­lighted the Home Sec­re­tary has lis­tened. This makes it even more im­por­tant we put re­newed pres­sure on the French Gov­ern­ment to play their role in tack­ling this cri­sis, pre­vent­ing these cross­ings from hap­pen­ing at all.”

He also wants drones armed with ther­mal imag­ing tech­nol­ogy to op­er­ate over the Chan­nel.

Pre­vi­ously, im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter Caro­line Nokes had sig­nalled a re­luc­tance to put fur­ther ves­sels in the Chan­nel. On a week­end visit to Dover, she claimed more craft could act as a pos­si­ble “mag­net” for fur­ther at­tempted cross­ings.

Mr El­ph­icke added: “My great­est con­cern is that, if we don’t bring this cri­sis to an end, sooner or later there will be a tragedy in the mid­dle of the English Chan­nel.”

Lord West, the for­mer head of the Navy, said that the cut­ters would be a “use­ful” as­set.

But he added:

“They’ll be use­ful for the nar­row lanes around the Chan­nel but re­ally this a drop in the ocean.” And he hit out at the han­dling of the cri­sis, ad­ding: “The re­ac­tion to this has been ap­palling.”

Mr Javid said “just un­der half” of mi­grants at­tempt­ing to cross the chan­nel “have ac­tu­ally been dis­rupted by the French and never ac­tu­ally made it in terms of leav­ing the French coast”.

The Home Of­fice said later that 539 mi­grants have tried to travel to the UK on small boats last year.

Of these, 434 – about 80 per cent – had made their at­tempts in the last three months of the year. Of the 539, 227 – 42 per cent – were in­ter­cepted by the French be­fore they made it to the UK.

New ap­proach… Sa­jid Javid

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