Royal Navy's withdrawal from Channel migrant patrols 'shows Home Office policy is unravelling'

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Navy's withdrawal from Channel migrant patrols shows Home Office policy is 'unravelling' - Andrew Aitchison /In Pictures
Navy's withdrawal from Channel migrant patrols shows Home Office policy is 'unravelling' - Andrew Aitchison /In Pictures

The Royal Navy's plan to end its role in charge of tackling Channel migrants shows the Home Office's policy is "unravelling", the shadow home secretary has warned.

Yvette Cooper warned that Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, is more interested in "chasing headlines" than tackling the illegal gangs that traffic people across the Channel.

"Yet another Conservative policy on Channel crossings has completely unravelled while the number of lives put at risk in dangerous crossings is still rising," she said in a statement.

"Conservative Ministers have repeatedly chased headlines rather than doing the hard work to tackle the problem.

"The Navy was pulled into this because Home Office ministers were already failing and this comes on top of damning reports into failings in the Home Office management of Border Force, as well as hundreds of millions of pounds wasted on the unworkable Rwanda scheme.

"Labour has set out a serious alternative plan to fund a new cell in the National Crime Agency which will target the criminal gangs and prevent more lives being put at risk."

Navy - SL/SWNS /SL/SWNS
Navy - SL/SWNS /SL/SWNS

On Monday, The Telegraph reported that the Ministry of Defence had told ministers that it plans to relinquish responsibility for dealing with migrants crossing illegally into the UK on Jan 31.

It comes only four months after Boris Johnson brought in the first Navy vessels to patrol the Channel, saying the move would help ensure that "no boat makes it to the UK undetected".

Government sources said the Navy was proposing to hand back control to Border Force "unless there are ministerial actions".

John Spellar, a Labour MP, told the BBC that the Navy should never have been involved in dealing with Channel crossings in the first place, branding their involvement an "ill-thought out publicity stunt".

"We're at record numbers already and it was always going to be that, because never clear what the Navy was supposed to do," he told the BBC's Today Programme.

"This never made any sense but did divert Navy personnel," he said, adding: "Increased activity in the North Atlantic from the Russians, that's what the Navy should be focused on, not this ill thought out publicity stunt."