Britain calls in military in latest attempt to stem flow of illegal migrants from France

Having been drafted in to help with the debacle that is Britain’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the country's armed forces have now been asked to help deal with boats carrying migrants across the Channel from France, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Saturday after yet another spate of arrivals on the southern English coast.

Taking advantage of a spell of hot weather and calm sea conditions, hundreds of people including children and pregnant women have made the dangerous 33-km crossing in recent days, many in overloaded rubber dinghies and other small vessels, Reuters reports.

The MoD said it had received a formal request from the Home Office to assist the UK Border Force with its operations in the Dover Straits.

“We are assessing the requirements... and are working hard to identify how we can most effectively assist,” MoD said in a statement.

More than 200 people arrived on the English coast on Thursday, followed by 130 on Friday, and media reported more arrivals on Saturday as the hot weather persisted.

A junior Home Office minister in charge of immigration compliance, Chris Philp, called the rise in arrivals “shameful” and sought to put pressure on France ahead of a meeting with his French counterpart in Paris next week.

“The French need to stop these illegal migrants from getting in the water in the first place,” he said in an opinion column published in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, adding that Britain would seek to return to France those who made it across.

France’s interior ministry said surveillance teams on the northern coast were intercepting migrants daily and it had mobilised extra resources. It said five times as many migrant boats had been caught between January and July compared with the same period in 2019.

“This is a joint problem...which needs a joint operational response,” a spokesman said.

Immigration has been an especially polarising issue in Britain since the Brexit referendum in 2016 because “taking back control” of immigration and border policy was presented as one of the key advantages by pro-Brexit campaigners.

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