Ministry of Defence tells Priti Patel they will not push migrants back to France in the Channel

The Royal Navy and Marines will not be 'using push back tactics in the English Channel'

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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has told Priti Patel that the Royal Navy and Marines will not be turn back migrants who have made Channel crossings.

The MoD told the Home Secretary that they will not send migrants back to France as they are set to take over operational control of crossings this month.

Asked about plans for the military to take over command of tackling migrant crossings from Border Force, Ms Patel described the work as a “hybrid role” involving both the Home Office and the MoD and said the “details are still being worked through”.

Facing questions over whether navy vessels would be called in to intercept boats, she added: “That work is taking place. I’m not going to comment on operational planning.”

She was unable to say whether the navy would be involved in push back operations – to turn migrant boats back towards France at sea – reiterating that work had not been finalised and was “still under way”.

But the MoD later said in a post on Twitter: “The Royal Navy and the Royal Marines 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. A further update will follow in due course.”

During the committee hearing, Ms Patel also rejected concerns that the MoD’s involvement could encourage more people to cross the Channel, adding: “I have confidence in the expertise of our teams that are working through operational details. I think actually it is incredibly irresponsible for any speculation around this area.”

She insisted suggestions that the UK could process and determine asylum claims from centres in France “would not stop” the crossings, adding: “That proposal will effectively make France a big magnet for more migrants to come.”

More than 1,300 people crossed the English Channel to the UK on board small boats in January 2022, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.

This is more than six times the number who succeeded in making the dangerous journey in January last year.