Royal Navy: Nigel Farage says Portsmouth vessels are too big to deal with migrant boats in English Channel

The Royal Navy has been criticised for being a ‘waste of time and resources’ by using boats too big for the job of rescuing migrants crossing the English Channel.

Friday, 15th April 2022, 4:35 pm
Updated Friday, 15th April 2022, 5:06 pm

Women, children and single men are among hundreds of people brought ashore on Good Friday as the Ministry of Defence takes over responsibility for handling migrants crossing the English Channel.

Royal Navy patrol vessels have been posted in the Channel to oversee operations after being put in charge by Prime Minister Boris Johnson from Thursday.

The naval ships have been spotted towing empty dinghies used by the people smugglers back to the UK after those onboard were offloaded on to boats operated by Border Force, which is part of the Home Office.

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Royal Navy HMS Blazer tows two small boats as it arrives in Dover, Kent on Thursday, following a number of small boat incidents in the Channel. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Portsmouth-based patrol vessel HMS Blazer, which is 21m long and 6m wide, was pictured towing two small boats into Dover on Thursday.

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Military personnel waiting at the dockside in Dover have then been meeting the arrivals and placing them on to buses to be taken to processing centres.

Political commentator and former Ukip leader Nigel Farage has criticised the navy’s response as a ‘waste of time and resources’ by using vessels which are ‘too high to pick up migrants’, meaning the RNLI and Border Force were still required to carry out the task.

Brexit party leader Nigel Farage arrives at Staincliffe Hotel ahead of canvassing

He posted on Twitter: ‘The new Royal Navy presence in the Channel off to a terrible start…

‘The gunwhales [sic] on the vessels are too high to pick up migrants, so the RNLI & Border Force are doing the job instead!

‘The Navy are then going around picking up the empty dinghies. Waste of time and resources!’

The MoD, Home Office and RNLI have been approached for comment.

Mr Johnson put the Royal Navy in ‘operational command’ of handling boats crossing the Channel while, under newly-revealed plans, those detained could be flown to Rwanda within weeks.

The MoD has confirmed that 562 people were brought ashore from 14 boats on Thursday.

These figures do not include any being intercepted by the French authorities.

A further 600 are understood to have been brought to the UK on Wednesday, but the Home Office has not provided figures for what was its final day of responsibility for handling Channel crossings.

This means the total of migrants to have arrived in the UK so far this year including Good Friday will be about 6,000, according to figures compiled by the PA News agency.

Conservative MP James Heappey posted on Twitter in response to Mr Farage’s comments that the MoD was looking at leasing ‘more appropriate platforms’ for the role.

He wrote: ‘We’ve been clear on limitations of RN patrol vessels all along hence why we’re leasing more appropriate platforms.’

An RNLI spokeswoman said: ‘The RNLI is one of HM Coastguard’s declared list of search assets around the UK for the purposes of saving lives at sea and is tasked by them as necessary.

‘HM Coastguard is responsible for initiation and co-ordination of all maritime search and rescue within the UK Maritime Search and Rescue Region and will actively manage multiple distress scenarios, calling in the RNLI depending on the immediate needs at the time.’

A Home Office spokeswoman declined to comment.