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  1. ITV Report

Home Office U-turn as Sajid Javid sends for Mediterranean patrol cutters after 10-year-old among 12 migrants detained

Two of the Border Force's largest boats will return from overseas to patrol the English Channel in response to the recent increase in migrants making the perilous journey, the Home Secretary has said.

Sajid Javid's announcement marks a U-turn in thinking, since the 49-year-old has previously resisted calls to deploy more of the boats, known as cutters, warning that more vessels might act as a magnet for migrants hoping to be picked up and taken to the UK.

The decision comes just hours after a 10-year-old child was among a group of 12 migrants who were detained after landing on a Kent beach on New Year's Eve.

The Home Office confirmed nine men, two women and the child, who say they are Iranian, arrived at Greatstone in a black dinghy on Monday morning.

The latest arrivals mean that almost 100 migrants have made the dangerous crossing over the Christmas period, while 230 have attempted to do so since the beginning of December, something Mr Javid branded a "major incident".

Border Force workers tended to the black dinghy in Lydd-on-Sea in Kent.
  • How did the Home Secretary defend his U-turn?

After cutting short his family holiday, Mr Javid announced on Monday that two Border Force cutters - specialist boats which the force describes as being capable of rescuing several migrant boats at the same time - are to be redeployed from the Mediterranean to patrol the English Channel in response to the migrant crisis.

The boats are currently patrolling the Mediterranean where migrants are trying to cross the sea from Africa into Europe.

Mr Javid said the decision to bring the total number of cutters patrolling the Channel to three was about both "protecting human life but also about protecting our borders.

"When it comes to human life, clearly I want to make sure that we are doing all we can to protect people.

"We must remember that this is one of the most treacherous stretches of water that there is, 21 miles with people taking grave risk, really putting their lives into their own hands by taking this journey."

The Bromsgrove MP continued that as well as deploying the cutters, efforts were being stepped up to tackle people traffickers and to return migrants who reach England back to France.

Co-operation with the French authorities is improving, Mr Javid said, with around 40% of attempted crossings being disrupted by authorities, with both countries working together "both directly but also in more covert ways".

In a message to would-be migrants, the Home Secretary added: "We will do everything we can to make sure it is not a success, in the sense that I don't want people to think that if they leave a safe country like France they can get to Britain and then just get to stay.

"That's why I am working out ways with the French to increase the number of returns that we can make to also send a very strong message that we will do all we can not just to protect human lives - of course that's the right and responsible thing to do at all times - but also to protect our borders."

  • What happened on Monday?
Border Force officials tended to the inflatable dinghy on Monday morning. Credit: Twitter/Chris Matcham

After 12 migrants landed on the Kent coast on New Year's Eve, witness Chris Matcham described seeing a rapid police response along the quiet stretch of coastline.

"I was driving towards New Romney this morning with my sister when a police car came haring past us along the road," he said.

“We then saw the police car and van on the sea side of the road a bit further down.

“We saw what we suspected were immigrants standing by the van on the pavement. I think we saw four or five but couldn’t see for sure as we were driving past.

“Then I went for a walk 30 minutes later and lots of police helicopters were flying overhead. The dinghy was empty and the migrants were gone. The police van was gone, too."

Kent Police said officers were called at 8.16am to a report of a group of suspected migrants in Coast Drive, Greatstone.

  • What else is being done about the rise in Channel crossings?
Sajid Javid headed off to speak to Whitehall officials on Monday morning.

Mr Javid chaired a meeting on Monday to assess the government's response to the festive rise in migrant crossings.

In the wake of the increased crossings, Mr Javid said border patrols have been increased as he prepares to step up action on the bids to reach Britain by boat from France but wrote in a national newspaper article there are "no easy answers" to the crisis.

An "enhanced action plan" to be launched this week will include increased joint patrols and surveillance, disruption of organised trafficking gangs and efforts to raise awareness among migrants of the dangers of a Channel crossing.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Javid warned that many of the factors behind the increase in crossings are "outside of our control".

Journeys are being fuelled by instability in the Middle East, organised crime and tighter security at Calais, he said.

"While we have obligations to genuine asylum seekers… we will not stand by and allow reckless criminals to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our global society," he wrote.

The festive spike in Channel crossings before the latest landing in Lydd-on-Sea. Credit: PA

In phone talks on Sunday, which the Home Office described as "significant and productive", Mr Javid and his French counterpart Christophe Castaner agreed to ramp up co-operation to stop the crossings.

The two men agreed to meet face-to-face in January to assess whether further action is required, the Home Office said.

  • What happened on Sunday?

Six Iranian men were found on a Kent beach early on Sunday having arrived from France in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat.

The group were handed over to immigration authorities after being spotted in Kingsdown, near Deal.

Six men found on Sunday are now known to be Iranian nationals. Credit: Kent Online
  • Is Sajid Javid justified to declare the spike in crossings a crisis?

Mr Javid declared a "major incident" on Friday after dozens of migrants in small boats arrived on the Kent coast over the Christmas period.

However, he has faced accusations of over-egging the scale of the problem.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told the Guardian: "There's no question that with Brexit, and also with the approach of the meaningful vote in January, people are being whipped up about migration issues, because the Government thinks this is the best way of frightening people to vote for their deal."

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a more welcoming approach, tweeting: "We have a duty to reach out the hand of humanity, support and friendship to people who are in danger and seeking a place of safety."

Yet there are those within his own party who believe Mr Javid is not doing enough, with the Home Secretary facing growing pressure from his own backbenches to act, with Kent MP Rehman Chishti telling him to "get a grip".

Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the armed forces were ready to offer help if needed, but there had been no requests from the Home Office.

A Border Force RIB on patrol in Dover Harbour. Credit: PA