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Royal Navy ships ‘too big’ to stop migrants crossing English Channel

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Armed Forces minister James Heappey admitted Royal Navy ships sit too high above the water to help migrants out of dinghies safely.

He said the ships would be flanked by smaller vessels and Navy chiefs were “crunching on their calculators” to determine the number.

Boris Johnson is giving the military responsibility for overseeing Border Force and other government agencies in the Channel, in an attempt to stem the number of migrants coming to Britain.

Mr Heappey said in some cases the Navy needed to “shadow” migrant boats into shore and make arrests on the beach “because it would be too dangerous to do otherwise”.

He said: “You will need additional platforms that are appropriate to the task, you need a very low outboard height to be able to safely bring people from a dinghy into your vessel.

“Some dinghies will be so flimsy and overcrowded that the act of unloading them mid-Channel may cause a greater risk to lives.

“We will provide extra ships for the purpose of co-ordinating the efforts, but the Navy sailors, Royal Marines, are not warranted and not able to enforce the law.”

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Mr Heappey added: “We will need anywhere up to another 10 of the larger vessels you would use to do the cross-Channel cross-decking and a number of smaller vessels to shadow dinghies to shore. It may be we need far fewer. That is what the admirals are crunching away on their calculators.”

He said the Channel operation was “already pretty successful”, despite a record of at least 28,000 migrants arriving in the UK last year.

The minister said 97 percent of the dinghies going into the water were identified, observed and tracked as they move towards the UK.

He added: “I think the fact you know where 97 percent of the boats are gives you the opportunity to have a pretty high degree of control over the way people land in the UK.

“Whether they are then intercepted at sea or whether the people as they disembark are arrested or taken away is the concern.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill will make the point of arrest in the Channel, which Mr Heappey said “in itself, acts as a deterrent”.

The Border Force fleet has four 137ft patrol boats known as cutters and six 65ft vessels.

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