The Royal Navy has been criticized for being a ‘waste of time and resources’ by using boats that are too big for the job of rescuing migrants crossing the English Channel. Women, children and single men are among the hundreds disembarked on Good Friday as the Ministry of Defense takes over the management of migrants crossing the English Channel.
Royal Navy patrol boats have been posted in the English Channel to oversee operations after being appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday. Navy ships were seen towing empty dinghies used by smugglers back to the UK after those on board were unloaded onto boats operated by Border Force, part of the Home Office.
The Portsmouth-based patrol vessel HMS Blazer, which is 21 meters long and 6 meters wide, was pictured towing two small boats to Dover on Thursday. Military personnel waiting at the dock in Dover then met the arrivals and placed them on buses to take them to treatment centres.
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Political commentator Nigel Farage criticized the Navy’s response as a “waste of time and resources” using ships “too high to pick up migrants”, meaning the RNLI and Border Force were always necessary to complete the task. He posted on Twitter: ‘The Royal Navy’s new presence in the English Channel is off to a terrible start… The gun whales on the ships are too high to pick up the migrants so the RNLI and Border Force are doing the job in place ! The navy then goes around to collect the empty canoes. Waste of time and resources!
Mr Johnson has handed the Royal Navy ‘operational command’ of managing the boats crossing the English Channel while, according to recently revealed plans, those detained could be airlifted to Rwanda within weeks. The Ministry of Defense confirmed that 562 people were brought ashore from 14 boats on Thursday. These figures do not include any interceptions by the French authorities.
A further 600 people are believed to have been brought to the UK on Wednesday, but the Home Office did not provide figures on its last day of responsibility for managing Channel crossings. This means the total number of migrants arriving in the UK so far this year, including Good Friday, will be around 6,000, according to figures compiled by PA News.
Tory MP James Heappey posted on Twitter in response to Mr Farage’s comments that the MoD was considering hiring “more suitable rigs” for the role. He wrote: “We have always been clear about the limitations of RN Patrol Vessels which is why we lease more suitable rigs.”
A Ministry of Defense spokeswoman said it would provide an offshore patrol vessel, up to six P2000 Archer-class vessels and a savage helicopter in a bid to boost Border Force capabilities until more suitable longer term vessels have been contracted.
She said: “We have made it clear that the role of the Royal Navy is to protect life at sea, providing operational oversight and coordination. To achieve this, the defense complements Border Force resources, expertise and experience in managing travel and small boat arrivals to ensure no one arrives on their own terms.
An RNLI spokeswoman said: ‘The RNLI is one of HM Coastguard’s declared lists of search assets across the UK with the aim of saving lives at sea and is commissioned by them if necessary. HM Coastguard is responsible for initiating and co-ordinating all maritime search and rescue within the UK Maritime Search and Rescue region and will actively manage multiple distress scenarios, calling the RNLI as the immediate needs dictate.
A Home Office spokeswoman declined to comment.