Navy tests the use of NETS to snare migrants in the Channel

Navy tests the use of NETS to snare migrants in the Channel as record numbers cross illegally from France

  • Military ships worked with UK Border Force to try out tactics in May and June
  • Priti Patel revealed the scheme as she blamed Paris for the ongoing crisis
  • More than 2,750 thought to have reached the UK across the Channel this year 

The Royal Navy has been testing the use of nets to stop migrants in the Channel, Priti Patel revealed yesterday.

Military ships worked with UK Border Force in May and June, trying out tactics to deploy against small boats crossing from France.

The Home Secretary made the disclosure as she blamed Paris for failing to get to grips with the migrant crisis.

More than 2,750 illegals are thought to have reached the UK across the Channel this year, including a yet to be confirmed 90 who landed at Dover yesterday.

The figure compares with just 1,850 during the whole of last year. On Sunday there were a record-breaking 180, crammed aboard 15 dinghies.

More than 2,750 illegals are thought to have reached the UK across the Channel this year, including a yet to be confirmed 90 who landed at Dover yesterday

Numbers are rocketing despite Miss Patel’s promise, made in October, that she would have virtually eliminated the Channel crossings by now.

Yesterday she said she was working to persuade the French to ‘show willing’ and allow arrivals to be turned back.

Miss Patel claimed international maritime laws allowed the UK to stop migrant boats reaching British soil but that Paris interpreted the rules differently.

‘I feel that there could be stronger enforcement measures on the French side,’ Miss Patel told MPs yesterday.

‘I’m looking to make changes. We have a major, major problem with these small boats. We are fundamentally looking at changing ways of working in France.

‘I’ve had some very, very – I think it’s fair to say – difficult discussions with my French counterpart even looking at interceptions at sea because currently the French authorities are not intercepting boats.

‘And by that I mean even boats that are just 250 yards or so away from the French coast.

‘A lot of this is governed by maritime laws and the French authorities’ interpretations of what they can and can’t do.’

She confirmed that French patrol vessels will intervene to stop migrant boats only if they are seen to be sinking – and not to prevent illegal crossings.

On the Navy’s involvement, Miss Patel told the Commons home affairs committee: ‘We have been running a series of exercises in the water at sea involving a range of maritime assets, including military assets as well.

The Home Secretary, pictured yesterday, made the disclosure as she blamed Paris for failing to get to grips with the migrant crisis

‘We can bolster Border Force and demonstrate how we can safely pick up boats and transfer them back to France.

‘That is effectively the dialogue that we are now entering with the French in terms of how they can work with us and show willing. Because it’s doing their country no good whatsoever.’

Tim Loughton, a Conservative MP on the committee, asked the Home Secretary: ‘So can you confirm that you think the French do have the powers – which they claim they don’t – to intercept boats at sea?’

She replied: ‘Absolutely right. And that is what we are working to achieve right down to sharing legal advice in terms of maritime laws. Through the pandemic where the weather has been good we have seen a surge in the numbers, and we have to end this route.

‘We want to break this route, we want to make this unviable. The only way of doing this is intercepting and returning the boats back to France.’

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin, who was appointed just ten days ago, will visit Dover next month to see the impact migrant boats have on the local community.

‘The Home Secretary is increasingly frustrated with the French side, but we have new hope the new interior minister will want to sort this out,’ said a Whitehall source.

n Nine Eritrean stowaways were found in the back of a lorry at a Welcome Break services on the M40 yesterday. Police were called after witnesses saw movement in the rear of the parked truck in Oxfordshire.

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