The armed forces “stand ready” if needed to prevent migrants crossing the channel from France, the defence secretary has declared.
Gavin Williamson said the military was ready to offer help if needed, telling The Sunday Telegraph: “We have not had any requests as yet but if the Home Office is in need of armed forces support then our navy, air force and army stand ready to assist.”
His comments come as Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who cut short a family holiday to help deal with the “major incident”, is facing calls from MPs to send in the Royal Navy.
The National Crime Agency says dozens of attempts by migrants to cross the Channel from France have been disrupted in the last three weeks.
Channel migrants ‘being picked up’ by the French
An Iranian man tells Sky News that ‘everywhere is blocked now’
Sky News understands Mr Javid will speak to the French interior minister on Sunday.
The home secretary says he will keep the number of Border Force vessels under close review.
But he has not pledged to provide any more boats, saying he wants to ensure Britain does not “encourage more people to make this dangerous journey”, adding that there was “no one easy answer”.
More on Migrant Crisis
- Migrant crisis: Numbers trying to cross English Channel will get ‘much worse’, says ex-Border Force boss
- Migrant crisis: More than 800 people intercepted crossing English Channel in new daily record
- Nearly 600 people cross English Channel to UK in a single day in new record
- Migrant dies after boat gets into difficulty trying to cross Channel
- Record day for migrant crossings as 482 cross English Channel on Wednesday
- Priti Patel visits Greece for discussions with counterparts about tackling illegal migration
In a statement released on Saturday evening, Mr Javid said the situation in the Channel was of “grave concern, with people gambling their lives in reckless attempts to reach the UK in unsafe boats and treacherous conditions”.
But he said it was “vital we strike a balance between protecting them and protecting our borders”.
Mr Javid said: “I continue to keep the number of Border Force cutters in the Channel under close review, but there is no one easy answer to this complex problem.
“We have been working closely with our domestic partners and the French for some time to address this issue.
“I will continue to work closely with all partners to ensure we do even more to intercept these boats before they reach the UK, to tackle the organised crime gangs that facilitate many of these dangerous journeys, and to deter and protect those driven to make them.”
Chris Hogben, the head of an NCA-led organised immigration crime task force, is expecting more crossing attempts.
He said French colleagues had “disrupted numerous attempts, recovering at least 95 migrants including nine children, and arrested seven people caught attempting to facilitate these crossings”.
“Dozens of attempted crossings have already been prevented,” he added.
Three “suspected facilitators” have also been arrested and charged in France, he said. They will face trial in the new year.
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
Mr Hogben added that the “organised criminals behind these most recent attempts are in the main not UK-based, but through our close collaboration with French authorities we are still having an impact on them and their activity”.
Two separate groups of migrants attempting to enter the UK by boat were picked up on Friday , totalling 12 people.
Some of them are being treated for hypothermia.
Mr Javid has come under increasing pressure to provide more resources in the Channel.
Dover MP Charlie Elphicke called for cutters to be brought back from search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean.
He said he did not accept they would be “anything other than a deterrent”, dismissing suggestions that patrol boats might act as a magnet for migrants hoping to be picked up and brought to the UK.
“Everyone knows that the rescues are being done by the RNLI, who are volunteers and going out over the Christmas period making sure people are not at harm on the high seas,” he said.
Independent MP and home affairs committee member John Woodcock told The Sun: “The public is losing confidence in the struggling Border Force. It’s time to stop the rot by sending in the Royal Navy.
“If the civilian force can’t cope, the navy must stop this crisis becoming a catastrophe.”
And another committee member, Conservative MP Tim Loughton, told the newspaper: “There is a serious security implication, as this is a likely route undesirables who have been fighting in Syria will use if they want to return to the UK.
“Of course there is now a case for the Royal Navy to be brought in to do border protection in the Channel.”
- FBI arrests member of armed civilian group that detained migrants
- The Latest: Top Venezuela official says armed forces united
- Chinese Troops in Hong Kong Keep Low Profile but Stand Ready
- Dozens of migrants feared dead in capsizing off Libya
- The Latest: EU official urges Italy to let migrants land
- Russia Warns U.S. 'Getting Ready' for War on Venezuela, China Says Leave Cuba Alone Too
- New Arms Race: U.S., China Account for Half of Global Military Spending
- Venezuela sides reported to be ready for new talks
- ACLU: Group illegally detaining migrants
- Spanish navy ship to remain ready to take migrants in Italy
- Italy's Salvini tells ship with 107 migrants to go to Spain
- Rescue group rejects taking migrants to Balearic Islands
- The Latest: 9 migrants jump into sea trying to reach Italy
- The Latest: NGO: migrants need access to safe Europe ports
- Airstrike kills 44 at migrant detention center in Libya
- Up to 40 migrants bound for Europe feared drowned off Libya
- UN Says 40 Migrants Feared Drowned in Capsizing Off Libya
- Police: 69-year-old man dies after attacking migrant jail
Armed forces 'stand ready' over Channel migrants have 980 words, post on news.sky.com at December 30, 2018. This is cached page on Auto News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.