UK to deploy military to prevent migrant Channel crossings

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The Royal Navy has been deployed as recently as January 2019 in an attempt to reduce the number of refugees and migrants arriving to the UK via the English Channel. (Reuters)
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Many of the vessels used by those trying to cross the channel are little more than inflatable dinghys, as seen here being stopped by Border Patrol. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 August 2020

UK to deploy military to prevent migrant Channel crossings

  • French parliamentarian called the plans a “political measure” that would not help the situation.
  • Roughly 4,000 people have made the dangerous trip from France to the UK so far this year.

LONDON: The UK has announced it will use the military to prevent migrants entering the country from France via the English Channel, but the plans have drawn criticism from French politicians and rights groups in the UK.

More than 4,000 people have successfully made the crossing so far this year, and many of those have done so in small and overburdened boats.

Responding to the escalating number of people attempting the journey, the Home Office officially requested last week that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) assist the Border Force in its duties.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said her department was “working to make this route unviable” and announced on Sunday the appointment of a former Royal Marine to manage the government’s response to the crossings.

In response to Patel’s request, the MoD announced on Monday that it would send a Royal Air Force plane with spotters on board to assist the Border Force in its operations in the English Channel.

But the issue has caused tension between the UK and France.

The French National Assembly member for Calais, Pierre-Henri Dumont, slammed the decision to use the military to prevent crossings as a useless “political measure.”

He said: “What is the British navy going to do if it sees a small boat? Is it going to shoot the boat? Is it going to enter French waters? It’s a political measure to show some kind of muscle but technically speaking it won’t change anything.”

Paris has also requested that London provides £30 million to fund French efforts to prevent migrants from attempting the dangerous crossing from their side.

Patel’s decision to use the military to prevent Channel crossings has also drawn condemnation from human rights groups.

Bella Sankey, a barrister and director of Detention Action said: “The home secretary’s hysterical plea to the navy is as irresponsible as it is ironic. Pushbacks at sea are unlawful and would threaten human lives.

“No civilised country can even consider this, let alone a country with a tradition of offering sanctuary to those fleeing persecution,” she added.

Migration has long been a hot button issue in British politics, and this will not be the first time authorities have used the military to enforce migration policies.

In January 2019, the Royal Navy sent three ships to the Channel to prevent migrant crossings, saying at the time that the deployment would “help prevent migrants from making the dangerous journey.”

Seoul expands search for official killed by North Korean troops

Updated 5 min 36 sec ago

Seoul expands search for official killed by North Korean troops

  • Officials in Seoul are calling on North Korea to agree to a joint probe into the incident
  • The North had not responded to the call for a joint investigation
SEOUL: South Korea on Monday expanded the search for a missing fisheries official killed by North Korean troops at sea last week, a day after North Korea accused the South of raising tension by intruding into its territorial waters.
South Korea’s military has accused North Korean soldiers of killing the man, dousing his body in fuel and setting it on fire near the sea border, apparently in an effort to prevent the risk of a novel coronavirus outbreak.
Officials in Seoul are calling on North Korea to agree to a joint investigation into the incident, which prompted an apology from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who said the killing should not have happened.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said on Monday that military hotlines with North Korea should be restored to prevent unexpected incidents. North Korea severed the inter-Korean hotlines this year as relations soured.
Moon called Kim’s apology “unprecedented, very rare and special” and a sign that North Korea did not want relations to worsen. He added that communication must resume to prevent future problems.
As of Monday, the North had not responded to the call for a joint investigation. On Sunday, its state media issued a statement complaining that South Korea’s naval operations had entered its territorial waters in the area, off the west coast of the peninsula, threatening to raise tensions.
“We have never crossed the Northern Limit Line to the North’s side, but there has been differences in how the two Koreas mark the waters,” South Korea Coast Guard Lt. Lee Hong-chear said, referring to a disputed maritime demarcation that dates to the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War.
At least six aircraft and 45 vessels were participating in the search, including 36 ships from the coast guard and navy, and nine boats from the fisheries ministry and private owners, Lee said.
North Korea said on Sunday it was conducting its own search for the man’s body, and said it was considering ways to hand it over to the South if found.