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.”


Australian jailed for suspected Islamophobic attack on pregnant woman

Updated 3 min 12 sec ago

Australian jailed for suspected Islamophobic attack on pregnant woman

  • Stipe Lozina sentenced to 3 years for ‘vicious’ assault on victim wearing hijab in Sydney
  • ‘If nobody intervened, I could have been killed’

LONDON: An Australian man has been sentenced to three years in jail for an “inherently vicious” attack on a pregnant woman that is thought to have been motivated by Islamophobia. 

Stipe Lozina, 44, assaulted Rana Elasmar, 32, in a cafe in Sydney in November 2019 after asking her for money. He knocked her onto the floor, striking her at least 14 times and stamping on her head.

Before attacking Elasmar, who was 38 weeks pregnant at the time and was wearing a hijab, Lozina had shouted that “Muslims” had attacked his mother. 

“I made a conscious decision to turn my abdomen away from his punches,” Elasmar said. “I wanted to protect my baby.”

Lozina was restrained by members of the public before his arrest. “If nobody intervened, I could have been killed,” Elasmar said.

Lozina, who the court noted had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, chose to represent himself at the trial, interrupting court proceedings — held via video link — several times and “frequently” lapsing into “incoherent rants,” local media reported.

Judge Christopher Craigie said Lozina was “obviously unwell” and held “obsessive” opinions about Muslims.

“The assault was one with a grave potential to cause very serious harm to both the victim and her unborn child,” Craigie said during sentencing on Thursday.

Elasmar’s baby was born safely later in 2019, but she noted that though she had been spared major physical trauma, she had suffered psychologically in the aftermath of the attack.

“Islamophobia needs to end,” she said, adding that she has avoided going out in public since her ordeal. “Violence against women needs to stop.”