Royal Navy ship launched to tackle migrants crossing English Channel

PA Wire  PA Images

Last month Mr Javid announced that two more Border Force cutters will patrol the English Channel after several dozen migrants risked the perilous crossing over the Christmas period.

"That's why I am working out ways with the French to increase the number of returns that we can make to also send a very strong message that we will do all we cannot just to protect human lives - of course that's the right and responsible thing to do at all times - but also to protect our borders".

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has been criticised after questioning whether hundreds of migrants using small boats to make risky journeys across the English Channel are genuine asylum seekers.

France and Britain have since announced an "enhanced action plan" to combat attempts to cross with London redeploying two Border Force vessels now used in the Mediterranean as part of Operation Frontex to patrol the Channel instead.

The move represents a significant escalation of Britain's response to the migration issue.

The HMS Mersey will now accompany UK Border Force and French authorities who are already patrolling the area in a bid to prevent migrants from making the "dangerous journey", the Ministry of Defence confirmed.

It came amid mounting pressure by politicians for the navy to link up with the UK Border Force and patrol British waters after a surge of migrants crossing the English Channel in recent weeks.

Nearly all those who have made it to Britain have requested asylum, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said Wednesday, but he questioned whether someone who had left the safety of France could be a "genuine asylum seeker".

Some 539 people crossed the Strait of Dover - the Channel's narrowest part at 21 miles (33km) wide - in 2018.

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Javid wrote to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson on Wednesday night, requesting the assistance of the Navy, The Mirror reports.

"In nearly every case you are claiming asylum in the United Kingdom but if you were a real, genuine asylum seeker you could have done that in another safe country".

'But none of that means Britain can absolve itself of responsibility to refugees'.

Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, said Mr Javid was right to say that the UK's "proud tradition" of granting asylum is not abused.

He said: "I think the Home Secretary is right to say that, as a country that is very proud of our tradition of granting asylum to people who need it, we also want to make sure that isn't abused".

More than 230 people have made the crossing by boat since November - a unsafe feat as the 21-mile wide Channel is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

But his comments Wednesday were labelled "deeply concerning" by Lisa Doyle, director of advocacy at the Refugee Council charity.

"The outcome of an asylum application can not be pre-judged before it has been made and must be processed on its individual merit, irrespective of how that person reached the country", Lisa Doyle, director of advocacy at refugee Council, said in a statement.

The source said: "We are getting close to an agreement with them".

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