The armed forces are set to take charge of operations looking to limit migrant crossings in the English Channel within weeks, a government source has said, Europe migrant crisis.
This move could free up the Home Office to focus on the government’s reforms to the asylum system, the source adds.
The news follows reports in The Times that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will give the Royal Navy authority over government vessels in the channel.
The number of people who crossed last year was treble that in 2020.
Figures compiled by the BBC show at least 28,431 migrants made the journey in small boats in 2021 – up from 8,417 people the year before – despite huge UK investment in France to prevent crossings.
On 24 November at least 27 people died after their boat sank, in the largest single loss of life in the Channel since records began in 2014.
Last week, the Home Office said more than 270 people crossed in 10 small boats on Thursday (13 January).
In March last year, Home Secretary Priti Patel set out plans to overhaul the way people applying for asylum in the UK are treated.
Under the plans, people who arrive in the UK by what the government call illegal means to claim asylum will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive through proper channels.
At the time, Ms Patel said her plans would create a “faster and fairer” system that would “better support the most vulnerable” and the government would crack down on people smugglers exploiting those trying to reach the UK.
The Labour Party has criticised the plans for lacking compassion and being ineffective at discouraging crossings. Human rights lawyers warned they they are unlawful because they ignore Britain’s international obligations.
In December, four Iranian men who crossed in small boats had their convictions for immigration offences quashed by the Court of Appeal, which concluded it had not been proven they intended to enter the UK illegally.
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