Royal Marines train Border Force to push migrant boats back to France

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Home Secretary, Priti Patel has authorised the use of controversial “pushback” tactics to intercept and turn round migrants’ small boats mid-Channel to prevent them reaching the UK.

The new tactic means some vessels could be sent back towards France, rather than recovered by British authorities. 

The new “pushback” tactic comes during a record-breaking year for migrant crossings of the English Channel, with over 14,000 believed to have now made the trip.

The new strategy, already trialled by Border Force at sea, has been backed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who told MPs yesterday (Wednesday) that the Government was going to “use every possible tactic at our disposal to stop what I think is a vile trade.”

Overseen by the Royal Marines, sea training of Border Force is due to conclude this month, weather permitting. Sources said that the tactics were ready to deploy as soon as practical and safe.

Border Force has told ministers it will be able to deploy “turnarounds” only when they deem them safe to do so. They are likely to be restricted to sturdier, bigger migrant boats and used only in “very limited circumstances.”

A source said:

“It is a deterrent, not a silver bullet.” 

Similar “turnarounds” and “pushbacks” have been deployed by Australia and Greece in recent years but have sparked lawsuits over alleged breaches of human rights.

However, British Government sources said they have “robust and detailed” legal advice from Michael Ellis, the Attorney General that the tactics are lawful and in accordance with domestic and international law.

The French are thought to be maintaining their opposition to the new approach and are still refusing to take back or intercept migrants at sea unless they ask to be rescued.

Dover MP, Natalie Elphicke has welcomed the new tactics saying:

“Turning back boats sends the clearest message that enough is enough. Illegal migration that puts lives at risk will not be tolerated.

“I have been calling for this fresh approach which, along with stopping the boats leaving and effective returns, could finally bring an end to the small boats crisis.”

The French interior ministry has so far declined to comment.

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