No.10 Confirms New ‘Turnaround Tactics’ For Channel Migrant Boats

‘It’s what the public want’, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson says
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

No.10 has confirmed UK Border Force is set to deploy “turnaround tactics” to direct migrant boats back across the English channel, claiming the public support the move.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson said that staff were currently being trained in the new techniques under a plan developed by home secretary Priti Patel.

The tactics will be used with the intention of redirecting migrant vessels away from UK waters and back towards France.

Many lawyers and campaigners say the idea of forcing the turnaround of boats of migrants will breach international maritime law, but Patel has worked with attorney general Michael Ellis and “expert QCs” to draft a new policy.

The PM’s spokesperson said: “We know this is a long-standing problem that the public expect us to address. It simply cannot be right that dangerous… that criminal gangs are able to exploit our most vulnerable and put their lives at risk.

“It needs to be addressed, it’s what the public want, and it’s what we’re doing.”

They added: “Without getting into operational matters, as part of our ongoing response we continue to evaluate and test a range of safe and legal options to find ways of stopping small boats making this dangerous and unnecessary journey.”

The UK’s activities would comply with international and domestic law”, they said.

A record 13,500 migrants have crossed the Channel in small boats this year, including 1,000 in the past two days. Two hundred were prevented from crossing by the French on Monday, when 742 reached the UK.

The RNLI lifeboat rescue charity saw record donations earlier this year after former UKIP leader Nigel Farage accused them of being a ‘migrant taxi service’.

Current staff training, which is weather dependent and due to conclude this month, aims to ensure the tactics are ready to deploy as soon as practical and safe, government insiders said..

The tactics will be used with the intention of redirecting migrant vessels away from UK waters and back towards France.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds condemned the plans.

“Turning boats around at sea in the world’s busiest shipping channel is dangerous and risks lives,” he said.

“The home secretary has failed to tackle the vile criminal gangs who are profiting from people smuggling and this should be her focus, along with securing an effective deal with France and safe and legal routes.

“That she is even considering these dangerous proposals shows how badly she has lost control of this situation.”

No.10 also rejected claims of “financial blackmail” from French interior minister Gerald Darmanin, after the UK suggested its £55m paid to France was not producing results.

The government has “provided our French counterparts significant sums of money previously, and we’ve agreed another bilateral agreement backed by millions of pounds”, the spokesperson said.