Two Border Force cutters are being redeployed from overseas to patrol the English Channel in response to the wave of migrants entering the UK by boat, the government has announced.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced the move after a group of 12 migrants, including a 10-year-old child, were detained after landing on a Kent beach on Monday morning.
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 Tory minister has cut short a family holiday in South Africa to take personal control of the situation. He said the “major incident” remained a “very serious concern”. The two redeployed vessels will be joining a cutter that is already there and two other coastal patrol ships.
Speaking after a meeting with senior officials from the National Crime Agency and Border Force, 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.”
Meanwhile, Conservative ministers have been condemned for “aping Donald Trump” by using the issue of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel for political gain.
The UK and France have agreed to take joint action to deal with the issue as Javid has come under growing pressure to act, with Labour accusing him of being “slow to respond” and Conservative MP Rehman Chishti telling him to “get a grip”.
Critics pointed out that the scale of the attempted crossings paled in comparison to the migrant crisis witnessed across the world, and that the issue has been ongoing.
Liberal Democrat MP Ed Davey, the party’s home affairs spokesperson, told HuffPost UK: “People may be justifiably cynical about the sudden hysteria over this long running issue.
“With leading Conservatives jostling for a future leadership contest and Number 10 aping President Trump in their political manipulation of all things immigration, one might well question their motives.
“Rather than such squalid political calculations, we need a more humane and practical response.”
Davey said the Lib Dems want more investment in a stronger border force to tackle criminal gangs trafficking people, drugs and weapons and undo the “damage done by Theresa May’s cuts to Britain security”.
“That way we can continue in our proud tradition of offering a haven to refugees by offering safe routes to sanctuary for those forced from their homes by war and persecution, whilst properly controlling our borders,” the Kingston and Surbiton MP added.