Navy sinks mi­grant aid as boats are too costly

Sunday Express - - DEATH OF A MASTER DIPLOMAT - By Marco Gian­nan­geli

PLANS to seek help from the Royal Navy to tackle des­per­ate mi­grants il­le­gally cross­ing the Chan­nel have been aban­doned be­cause the boats are too ex­pen­sive, it is claimed

More than 100 mi­grants, in­clud­ing ba­bies, have tried to reach Bri­tain by sea in the past three months. Many are set adrift in in­flat­able dinghies by traf­fick­ers.

Last week 24 Ira­nian na­tion­als, were res­cued, four in an in­flat­able and 17 in stolen fish­ing boats.

Home Sec­re­tary Sajid Javid wanted Navy boats to be used for pa­trols as weather wors­ened in the Chan­nel and con­cerns for the safety of mi­grants grew.

Traf­fick­ers are thought to be in­creas­ing ac­tiv­ity be­fore Brexit.

But of five small cut­ters op­er­ated by Bor­der Force – re­spon­si­ble for pa­trolling Bri­tain’s bor­ders – just two are de­ployed in Bri­tish waters. Two are on hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sions in the Mediter­ranean and Aegean seas. The fifth is be­ing re­paired.

The Home Of­fice, sources say, was al­ready con­sid­er­ing us­ing Royal Navy boats when De­fence Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson an­nounced the MoD would be keep­ing three big off­shore pa­trol ves­sels [OPV], once ear­marked for sale.

Se­nior civil ser­vants de­cided the 25-crew ves­sels would be an ideal way of bridg­ing the gap while al­low­ing Bri­tain to con­tinue to honour its Mediter­ranean mis­sion.

But the plans fell apart when civil ser­vants learned the daily cost of “rent­ing” an OPV with crew.

The cost of a 16,000-tonne OPV, with a range of 5,500 nau­ti­cal miles (6,337 miles), starts at £20,000 a day. Add fuel and other fac­tors and it

can in­crease to as much as £50,000. Ac­cord­ing to Home Of­fice sources, the cost could sim­ply not be sanc­tioned so it was de­cided to pull back one of the Bor­der Force hu­man­i­tar­ian cut­ters in­stead.

De­fence Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson last week an­nounced that the three Royal Navy River-class ves­sels, HMS Tyne, HMS Mersey and HMS Sev­ern, had been saved to work in UK waters. A Home Of­fice source said: “It seemed log­i­cal

Pic­ture: SPLASH NEWS

JOUR­NEY’S END: Mi­grants es­corted from a beach near Folke­stone last month

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