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Military to be given responsibility for Channel crossings

A UK Border Force patrol boat carries migrants picked up at sea on arrival at the Marina in Dover, southeast England, on 24 November 2021. [BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images]
A UK Border Force patrol boat carries migrants picked up at sea on arrival at the Marina in Dover, southeast England, on 24 November 2021. [BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images]

The military has been commissioned to take over operations in the English Channel as Boris Johnson attempts to save his job, reports The Times, following growing pressure on the prime minister to resign after revelations that he attended parties at Downing Street whilst the rest of the country was in lockdown.

Under the new plans Johnson would give the navy authority over the government's boats in the Channel and a rear admiral will have the authority to direct Border Force, the coastguard, and place surveillance on or intercept people crossing the Channel.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has said that the Ministry of Defence is a "crucial operational partner to protect our Channel against illegal migration," whilst Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Antony Radakin has said this will make sure "no one gets to the UK on their own terms."

CEO of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, has said the plans to bring in the army are "cruel and inhumane."

"It's a desperate move by a government that isn't able to find solutions that will ensure an orderly, manageable and fair asylum system."

READ: Over 100 groups sign open letter objecting to 'two tier' UK nationality bill

The announcement comes after the government has already sustained intense criticism of its refugee policy, underscored by its controversial Nationality and Borders bill, which is currently making its way through the House of Lords, having been passed by the House of Commons in December.

The bill will make it a criminal offence for asylum seekers to arrive "illegally" in the country. In response, human rights groups and charities have called on the British government to provide safer routes for refugees who have been forced to make the dangerous journey across the sea after a clampdown on other viable routes.

The government has also proposed emulating the Australian system and using offshore processing centres for refugees with Rwanda being considered at one stage. Earlier this month over 100 UK organisations signed an open letter calling on peers to reject the contents of the bill.

On Saturday 197 people were intercepted or rescued trying to cross the Channel, the busiest shipping lane in the world that separates England from France whilst almost 500 people have already tried to cross this month. In 2021 some 28,431 people crossed the Channel, 8,417 more than the year before.

In November last year 27 people drowned including a pregnant woman and three children after their boat sank as they attempted to make the perilous journey after their inflatable dingy capsized.

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