‘This will help both with the human side of this situation but also to better protect our borders,’ said Javid
Two Border Force cutters are being redeployed from overseas to patrol the English Channel in response to the migrant crisis, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has announced.
Speaking after a meeting with senior officials from the National Crime Agency and Border Force, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘This incident around the Channel remains a very serious concern to me, that’s why I declared it as 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 that we are doing all we can to protect people.
‘We must remember that this is one of the most treacherous stretches of water that there is, 21 miles with people taking grave risk, really putting their lives into their own hands by taking this journey.’
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 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.’
Home Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured outside his home in London this morning) has battled through a chastening fortnight including Gatwick drone fiasco and a migrant crisis
UK Border Force cutter arriving at Dover Harbour with eight migrants and their inflatable tied alongside after being rescued from crossing the English Channel
Mr Javid said about 230 migrants had sought to cross the Channel in December but ‘just under half have actually been disrupted by the French and never actually made it in terms of leaving the French coast’.
The Home Secretary said that as well as deploying the cutters, efforts were being stepped up to tackle people traffickers and to return migrants who reach England back to France.
‘I wish there was one single answer but it does require action on many fronts,’ he said.
Border Force officers attended to another migrant crossing in an inflatable dinghy
Mr Javid arrives home from his holiday to South Africa this morning (left), before leaving shortly after (right) to deal with the migrant crisis
Co-operation with the French authorities was improving, around 40% of attempted crossings had been disrupted overall, with both countries working together ‘both 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, in the sense that 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 that we can make to also send a very strong message that we will do all we can not 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.’
Our eyes on the seas: UK Border Force’s fleet of cutters
Border Force is a law enforcement command within the Home Office that secures the UK border by carrying out immigration and customs controls for people and goods entering the UK using a fleet of five vessels.
The fleet, known as cutters, operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
Although they operate mainly in UK waters, they have responded to deployments as from the Baltic to the Mediterranean.
The fleet currently consists of:
- HM Cutter Seeker – Damen Stan Patrol 4207, commissioned 2001
- HM Cutter Searcher – Damen Stan Patrol 4207, commissioned 2002
- HM Cutter Vigilant – Damen Stan Patrol 4207, commissioned 2003
- HM Cutter Valiant – Damen Stan Patrol 4207, commissioned 2004
- HM Cutter Sentinel – Vosper Thorneycroft ‘Island Class’, commissioned 1993
Forming the bulk of the fleet, the Stan Patrol 4207 patrol vessel is built by Damen Shipyards, Holland. It is 42 metres long, is powered by two Caterpillar diesel engines through controllable pitch propellers, and is capable of reaching speeds above 26 knots.
It can accommodate up to 16 people, and can remain at sea for extended periods and in heavy weather conditions.
Each cutter carries a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), which can carry 5 crew and a coxswain for boarding duties. The 7.4-metre Delta-built craft is driven by an inboard diesel engine powering a water jet.
The RHIB is launched down a slipway in the stern of the cutter, allowing for safe and speedy deployment and recovery in most sea conditions.
The UK has got 10 cutter crews consisting of 120 seagoing staff. Each crew is led by a cutter commander. Crews work 2 weeks on duty and 2 weeks off duty, so there are 5 fully operational cutters all year round.
Our crews are all trained to full international and national maritime accreditation standards, under the Standards for the Training and Certification of Watchkeepers 1995 regulations.
Every crew member must pass a medical examination every 2 years.
Crew training is regulated by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA). Training and accreditation commitments are high, and it can take up to 10 years to qualify as a cutter commander.
Crew members are all highly trained for their maritime enforcement role. Additionally, they share responsibility for catering, cleaning, cooking and other domestic routines.
A Border Force off Kingsdown Beach. This morning a boat carrying another 16 migrants landed near Lydd-on-Sea in Kent
The news comes after Sajid Javid cut short his family holiday to deal with the migrant crisis – as boats continued to cross the Channel and arrive in Britain.
The Home Secretary headed for Whitehall to chair a high-level meeting after a quick stop at his London home to freshen up.
Mr Javid returned from South Africa overnight after being accused by fellow MPs of failing to act over the surge in people landing on the South Coast.
But he has warned against expecting ‘easy answers’ to the problem, saying the causes are ‘complicated’ and often ‘outside of our control’.
This morning a boat carrying another 16 migrants landed near Lydd-on-Sea in Kent, bringing the total to over 100 in a week and more than 220 since November.
The National Crime Agency said the French authorities prevented another attempt to cross the Channel on Saturday night.
Most of the migrants risking the dangerous winter crossing are Iranian men who have paid thousands to people traffickers for ‘guaranteed’ passage to the UK.
With pressure mounting, Mr Javid – widely regarded as the frontrunner to become Tory leader after Theresa May – chose to break off his family safari holiday in South Africa in response to the crisis.
He was bolstered by support from Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who said the whole world was grappling with similar issues.
This morning saw six migrants come ashore at Kingsdown in Kent at about 7.30am (pictured)
‘Sajid is doing, I think, a great job in gripping this situation and making sure we have the relationships and the resources in place to deal with it,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Downing Street also denied that the PM had ordered Mr Javid to cut his holiday short.
‘He returned to ensure he is leading the Government’s response to this issue,’ the PM’s spokeswoman said.
‘She certainly supports the work he is doing to tackle this deeply concerning rise.’
The spokeswoman added: ‘Ministers make decisions about the time they spend with their family. What’s important is that the Home Secretary is here dealing with this issue now.’
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.
Mr Javid wrote in the Telegraph: ‘The reasons behind the increased crossings are complicated, and in many cases – outside of our control.
‘Unfortunately, this means that there are no easy answers. So our response is focused both here in the UK and abroad.
‘These events are not something that I, as Home Secretary, will accept. Protecting the UK border and safeguarding lives is one of the Home Office’s most important priorities.
‘While we have obligations to genuine asylum seekers which we will uphold, we will not standby and allow reckless criminals to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our global society.’
Mr Javid has refused an offer of military assistance from Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, and rejected calls for more Border Force boats to be deployed between Dover and Calais.
There is currently one British cutter in the Channel.
Last night a former Cabinet minister said Mr Javid had ‘totally lost his grip on this and is floundering’, adding: ‘They are praying it goes away and they don’t have to do anything.’
Meanwhile, Dover Tory MP Charlie Elphicke said ‘more needs to be done as a matter of urgency’.
But allies of Mr Javid, seen as the frontrunner to succeed Theresa May as Conservative leader, defended his handling of the crisis.
And in a major escalation of hostilities, one of his supporters accused No 10 of releasing the location of his hotel in South Africa to Sunday newspapers to damage him – something Downing Street denied.
On Friday it was announced that Mr Javid had told the Home Office to treat the migrant crossings as a ‘major incident’ and that he had ‘taken control’ of the response.
Aides refused to say where he was, citing security reasons, but the Daily Mail revealed he was 6,000 miles away in South Africa with his wife and children.
Yesterday it emerged he was booked into an £800-a-night safari hideaway in the Kruger National Park. He has abandoned the trip and aides said he would be at his desk in the Home Office today.
He spoke on the phone to French interior minister Christophe Castaner yesterday and officials later announced that the pair had agreed a joint action plan.
A dog walker revealed how the six men, who were ‘in their 30s’ and ‘sodden’, made their way up the beach before they were intercepted by border officials
Yesterday Xavier Bertrand, president of the region which covers Calais, said there were ‘no organised surveillance patrols’ to deal with illegal immigration on the French side.
Today Mr Javid will hold a meeting with the Border Force, the National Crime Agency and other Whitehall departments.
But one senior minister said the Home Office should deploy all six Border Force cutters and destroy boats used by traffickers.
‘They don’t seem to have the capacity or the plan of what to do,’ the minister said. ‘They should be sending the people back straight away, not dumping them in Dover.’
Mr Elphicke also repeated his call for all six Border Force cutters to be deployed ‘to take back control of our borders immediately’.
The six men were spotted disembarking from a dinghy (shown) at Kingsdown in Kent, seven miles north of Dover, at about 7.30am
He called for ‘the immediate return to France of people found making illegal crossings’.
In a sign the issue has become a proxy war for the Tory leadership campaign, the MP who accused Mr Javid of ‘floundering’ added: ‘If you can’t run a department, you can’t run a country.’
One senior Tory source said Mr Javid had ‘not really been tested’ in the Home Office and had been ‘found out’ by the crisis.
Tim Loughton, the longest-serving Conservative MP on the home affairs select committee, told the Times: ‘It’s good that the home secretary is taking personal control of this but frankly he needs to show a much greater sense of urgency.
Eight migrants brought ashore at Dover Harbour by the UK Border Force officials
‘These journeys are being made now and clearly we do not have enough assets in the Channel to head them off.
‘If the Navy can provide that additional resource now, it needs to be brought in.
‘We need to see much more evidence of what the French authorities are doing to disrupt the people traffickers.’
But an ally of the Home Secretary said: ‘Like most people, he has been on a family holiday over Christmas. He has come back as soon as the problem arose. He has four young children and he is trying to give them his attention.’
The MP added: ‘I’m concerned about how the details of his hotel got into the public domain.
On Thursday it emerged that one one navy cutter was patrolling the Channel during the Christmas period, aided by two smaller boats
‘A very small group of people will know that. I wonder whether No 10 are using it against him because he has managed to come up with a fair and decent evolution of our immigration policy.’
A Downing Street source denied the leak claim, which would be a major breach of security.
Smugglers have been charging migrants up to £13,000 each to help them cross the world’s busiest shipping lane, but they are often entirely unprepared.
Boats have regularly been fitted with fuel tanks that cannot hold enough petrol for the 21-mile journey and in recent days migrants have been rescued from rubber dinghies.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn said the UK has a ‘duty to reach out the hand of humanity, support and friendship to people who are in danger’.
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