Sajid Javid performed a humiliating U-turn yesterday in the Channel migrant crisis.
Already forced to cut short his safari holiday, the Home Secretary has now bowed to pressure from Tory MPs to recall two ships to British waters.
He had previously insisted the move was a risk and aides repeatedly rejected the idea, saying it might encourage more migrants to make the dangerous crossing.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured outside his home in London this morning) has battled through a chastening fortnight including the Gatwick drone fiasco and the migrant crisis
Mr Javid arrives home from his holiday to South Africa this morning (left), before leaving shortly after (right) to deal with the migrant crisis
His about-face means that two Border Force cutters will be brought back from the Mediterranean to bolster the lone ship on patrol in the Straits of Dover. At least 139 migrants have been caught crossing from France over the festive period.
As MPs called for more to be done to bring the crisis under control:
- Another 12 people claiming to be Iranians, including a child of ten, arrived on the Kent coast yesterday;
- It emerged that anyone picked up in English waters will be brought to the UK;
- The Border Force cutter off the Kent coast deactivated its location beacon amid fears that migrants have used a smartphone app to track – and avoid – the vessel;
- A senior French politician said there were no organised sea patrols off Calais and surveillance was ‘pitifully inadequate’;
- Iranians are said to know they will not be sent home because of their country’s human rights record;
- Migrants claimed that around ten people a night are still getting into Britain in the back of lorries crossing the Channel.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid speaking to the media at the Home Office in London about the issue of migrants crossing the Channel
A rigid-hulled inflatable boat (pictured) was found on the beach near Dungeness this morning
Mr Javid yesterday held crisis talks in Whitehall after cutting short his family safari holiday in South Africa.
Speaking after a meeting with senior officials from the National Crime Agency and Border Force, he said: ‘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 that is already there and two other coastal patrol vessels.
‘This will help both with the human side of this situation but also to better protect our borders.’
The inflatable was stocked with items apparently intended to help the passengers endure the perilous crossing
Mr Javid said about 230 migrants had sought to cross the Channel in December, although just under half of them were ‘disrupted’ by the French and never left the their coast.
The Home Secretary said that as well as deploying the cutters, efforts are being stepped up to return migrants to France.
He also promised that ‘covert’ action would be taken on the other side of the Channel to disrupt smuggling rings as part of improved cooperation with French authorities.
The latest group of migrants landed shortly after 8am today at Greatstone, near Lydd-on-Sea
However, Mr Javid confirmed that anyone picked up in English waters would, at least initially, be brought to the UK to have their asylum claim heard. Under international maritime law, the Channel is divided in half for search and rescue operations.
If migrants are picked up in the UK half, then they are usually taken to Britain. But if they are picked up on the French side, then they are usually taken to France.
Appearing before a committee of MPs in November, the Home Secretary had said: ‘I have thought about: do we bring back one of the cutters we have in the Mediterreanean and put it to work in the Channel? That becomes a humanitarian and rescue mission and we have seen the risk in other countries that that can encourage more people to try and cross the Channel.’
Charlie Elphicke, the Tory MP for Dover and Deal, last night welcomed Mr Javid’s announcement but warned more action must be taken.
He said: ‘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.
‘I have written to the Home Secretary asking him to visit me in Dover and meet those on the frontline in dealing with this issue.’
How visa-free route through Serbia is why so many Iranians are crossing the Channel
The proliferation of Iranian migrants crossing the English Channel to Britain is partly thanks to a new migration route to Europe opened in August 2017 when Serbia started offering visa-free travel to people from Iran.
By the time the scheme was abolished in October following pressure from the European Union, more than 15,000 Iranians had visited Serbia.
Many of these migrants then moved towards western Europe instead of returning home – and many are said to have reached Calais before attempting to cross the English Channel to Britain.
British Red Cross chief executive Mike Adamson last night urged the Government to provide migrants with safe alternatives to risking the Channel crossing.
He said: ‘People only attempt perilous journeys like crossing the Channel because they are desperate.
‘It is deeply concerning that men, women and children feel they have no choice but to put their lives at risk in their search for a safe place to live.’
Ben Bano, of migrant support group Seeking Sanctuary, told the BBC: ‘We have to hold on to the fact that people, however desperate they are, are our brothers and sisters in humanity.
‘That’s what we have to remind people about – and they are refugees unless proved otherwise.’
n Britain has only five high-speed cutters to patrol 7,723 miles of coastline, while Italy has 600 vessels to cover 4,722 miles;
Meanwhile, former international development secretary Priti Patel called on ministers to use more of the £14billion foreign aid budget to deal with the crisis, which she claimed had for too long been ignored.
She said: ‘The migrant crisis requires significant leadership so that we demonstrate once again that we are in control of our security, as well as being absolutely firm with other countries that need to be taking on their responsibilities.
‘We use our leadership to influence other countries, we should do that more to make sure that France and other EU countries are not just foisting people by passing them on.
‘We have many levers in terms of safeguarding our borders through the use of patrol boats, through military assets if required, but also deploying our ODA [official development assistance] budget in the right kind of way to stop migrants fleeing their countries in the first instance.’
Revealed: 123 migrants have tried to enter Britain in 16 bids to cross the Channel in just seven days
There have been at least 16 attempts by migrants trying to get to Britain since Christmas Day in the Channel
1) Dec 25, unknown time – Dover – five migrants sail into Dover port and light a fire on the beach before handing themselves in to police
2) Dec 25, 2.40am – Folkestone – a girl is one of eight migrants found after arriving on a boat
3) Dec 25, 4.30am – off the coast of Deal, Kent – 13 migrants, including one child, rescued in the Channel
4) Dec 25, 5.50am – Channel – dinghy travelling towards the UK with seven men and a woman intercepted
5) Dec 25, unknown time – French side of Channel – nine migrants rescued by French officials after engine failed but transferred to English authorities
6) Dec 25, 9.20am – eight miles off coast of Dover – two migrants in a rowing boat are rescued
7) Dec 26, 12.30am – ten miles off France in Channel – three migrants intercepted and taken to Dover
8) Dec 26, 1.45am – off the coast of Sangatte, near Calais – 11 migrants intercepted and returned to Boulogne
9) Dec 27, 12,30am – off Battery Point, Folkestone – nine migrants including three children intercepted after dinghy came ashore
10) Dec 27, 8.30am – Shakespeare Beach, Dover – six Iranian men found after coming ashore
11) Dec 27, 8.45am – off the coast of Dover – eight Iranian men rescued from a rib and taken to Dover
12) Dec 27, 11.30pm – off the coast of Calais – 11 adult men, including five in a state of hypothermia, rescued and taken to Boulogne
13) Dec 28, 3am – off coast of Dover – one Syrian and three Iranian men found in rib
14) Dec 28, 9am – in the Channel – eight Iranian men rescued from a small boat and taken to Dover
15) Dec 30, 7.30am – Kingsdown beach near Dover – six Iranian men land in a dingy
16) Dec 31, 8am – Greatstone, near Lydd-on-Sea – 12 people arrive and are detained