Border Force is refusing to implement Priti Patel‘s plan to turn back migrant boats after another 20 people who made the perilous crossing across the English Channel were brought ashore by officials today.
The group of migrants in life jackets and coats were brought into the port of Dover in Kent in the early hours of this morning before they were led away by staff to a facility on the quayside.
Figures show more than 21,000 have now crossed the Dover Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes, by boat this year – which is more than double the number for last year.
The latest scenes come after the home secretary announced her plan to turn back migrants in a Tory conference last month after she took legal advice.
The group of around 20 migrants are brought ashore by Border Force officials after making the perilous journey across the English Channel
The scenes come after home secretary Priti Patel announced her plan to turn back migrants in a Tory conference
Ms Patel’s plans would see migrants boats intercepted and turned back to France by officers on jet skis.
The government is trying to pass the Nationality and and Borders Bill through Parliament, which would give Border Force officials immunity from prosecution during the ‘turnback’ operations.
But the move has been criticised by opposition MPs, and charities, while France has branded the tactics ‘illegal’.
Border Force has also rejected requests to use Ms Patel’s new strategy, citing objections such as weather and size of boats being intercepted.
This week immigration officials said they did not think the policy would be implemented because of conditions which have to be met and the agency’s lack of support for it.
A Border Force officer told The Times: ‘There is fairly universal agreement that this is not likely to ever happen.
‘The captains of the cutters have control of the process and in practice, if they’re not willing to use it, it will never happen.’
And Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, which represents frontline Border Force staff, said the tactics were unlikely to be used because safety at sea was paramount and due to the risk of death.
She also said the force cannot turn back a vessel in trouble unless the French are there to receive it and they won’t cooperate with the policy because they do not think it is ‘legal.’
Meanwhile Kim Bryan, from the charity Channel Rescue, which observes migrants arriving in small boats, warned Ms Patel the consequences of using the controversial ‘pushback’ tactics would be ‘horrific’.
Immigration bring the group of migrants into the port of Dover in Kent in the early hours of this morning
The group wear life jackets and coats as they are brought into shore before being led away to a facility
Figures show more than 21,000 people have now crossed the Dover Strait by boat this year
She told BBC Breakfast: ‘What they seem to be doing is pushing the boat from the stern and from the bow, and I guess the idea is they’re going to push them back into French waters.
‘These boats are incredibly flimsy. Just the wash from jet-skis going around them in the first place could cause them to capsize. What we will be seeing, then, if this starts happening, is tragedy. The consequences are going to be horrific.
‘I think it’s entirely unsafe, entirely impractical for Priti Patel to suggest that we do pushbacks in the Channel.’
Turnback powers are ready to be used after the prime minister gave the green light at the end of September.
Border Force has been seen off Dover practicing the tactics, involving three jet skis surrounding a migrant boat and directing it back to France.
According to guidance, the tactic can only be used in the Channel sections which are 1.8 miles wide and a commander can only agree to the procedure if it is confirmed that a French navy or rescue boat can escort the boat back.
Other safety rules must also be met including weather, sea conditions, number of migrants and size of the boat.
The latest scenes comes days after a migrant died when his boat capsized in the Channel on November 3.
The body of the man, who has not been identified, was recovered by the French authorities off Dunkirk. He is believed to have drowned.
An unknown number of migrants aboard the same dinghy were rescued, a government source said.
It came as images showed a Channel ferry that was forced to stop and rescue migrants in a sinking dinghy.
Photos taken from onboard the Isle of Ishinore showed more than a dozen migrants on a packed boat being propelled through the world’s busiest shipping lane by a single man holding a flimsy paddle.
The ferry stopped midway through a crossing from Dover to Calais after the craft was spotted drifting, with the captain telling passengers: ‘Apologies for the delay but we had to stop and rescue 13 migrants in distress who’s boat had run out of fuel and was sinking’.
The Isle of Ishinore stopped midway through a crossing from Dover to Calais after the craft was spotted drifting this moth. It dispatched a boat (right) to rescue the migrants (left)
This week figures showed that 21,050 migrants have so far arrived in 2021 compared to the previous record of 8,410 in 2020.
Earlier this year Dan O’Mahoney, Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, said: ‘These dangerous crossings from safe EU countries are completely unnecessary and we are determined to take down the evil criminal gangs behind them.
‘We’re working across Government as well as with French and International partners to tackle this issue.
‘We have doubled the number of police officers on French beaches, prevented more than 10,000 attempts, secured nearly 300 arrests and 65 prosecutions.
‘The Government’s New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken asylum system so it can no longer be exploited in this way.’
MailOnline has contacted the Home Office for comment.