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LONDON, Feb 2 (Reuters) – Britain’s navy has rejected a plan to turn away boats illegally carrying migrants to its shores when it takes over responsibility for trying to stop people crossing the English Channel in small dinghies.
The government said last month that it will hand the navy responsibility for policing small boats crossing between France to England, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Home Secretary Priti Patel approved plans last year for border officials, who have been dealing with the crossings, to be trained to force boats away from British waters using jet skis.
So far, the controversial tactic has not been used and the navy ruled it out in the future after Patel told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that the military had not made a final decision about whether it would be involved in such operations.
“The @RoyalNavy and the @RoyalMarines will not be using push back tactics in the English Channel, although a military commander will retain the existing ability to instruct Border Force to use them when appropriate,” the Ministry of Defence said on Twitter.
“A further update will follow in due course.”
The government has endured months of criticism from the Conservative benches in parliament over the refugee crossings, which have continued through the winter.
Last year, more than 28,000 migrants and refugees crossed the Channel to Britain, more than three times as many as in 2020.
On Tuesday, Patel said French President Emmanuel Macron was “absolutely wrong” to blame Britain for the crisis.
Macron had previously told a French newspaper that Britain’s reliance on illegal immigrant labour was behind the surge in numbers crossing from France.
Britain and France have traded accusations since the sinking of a dinghy in November led to the deaths of 27 people, with both countries placing the blame on the other for the crossings.
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by William James and Tomasz Janowski)(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022.
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