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Plans to use Royal Navy to deter asylum seekers from crossing the Channel condemned

The Home Office’s plans to use the Royal Navy to deter asylum seekers from crossing the English Channel have been condemned by human rights activists, opposition parties and even fellow Conservative MPs.

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Priti Patel announces that the Navy will take over Channel operations

Priti Patel has announced that she has asked the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to put the Royal Navy in charge of operations to police small boats crossing the English Channel. Speaking about the plan, the Home Secretary said:

“My decision to bring the MoD in is vindication that we need to absolutely strengthen our defences in the Channel.”

The Ministry of Defence is set to take over command of the operation as soon as the end of this month.

Priti Patel has claimed that despite the takeover from the Navy the government has not given up on their controversial push-back tactics, which have raised concerns about being dangerous and illegal. However, defence minister James Heappey said the navy would not be intercepting boats although he did not rule out the use of weapons.

Operation Save Big Dog

Many believe that the plans for the Navy takeover form part of operations in place to save Boris Johnson from losing his position as Prime Minister after the Downing Street lockdown party scandals.

The Prime Minister has reportedly launched two operations. Operation Save Big Dog refers to the sacking of Number 10 Staffers to deflect blame from the Prime Minister and Operation Red Meat is the announcement of a number of populist policies in an attempt to win back voters.

Other populist policies announced by the Conservatives as part of the operation to distract from the scandals and win back public support include:

  • Scrapping Plan B covid restrictions
  • Freezing the BBC licence fee for two years
  • Addressing the backlog of operations in the NHS
  • Extra money for skills and job training for the 1.5 million people out of work and on Universal Credit
  • Publishing Michael Gove’s levelling-up white paper

There have been multiple accusations of lockdown parties at Downing Street. At first, the Prime Minister denied that any parties had happened, when new evidence was revealed he denied that they had broken rules or that he had attended, after further evidence the Prime Minister has admitted that he did attend a garden party at 10 Downing Street in the height of lockdowns but has said that no one warned him the party would break the rules that he set.

Operation Dogs Dinner

The policy to have the Navy takeover Channel operations has already come under intense scrutiny and criticism, even from the Tory party’s own backbenchers with Tory MP Philip Hollobone telling Defence Minister James Heappey that:

“This isn’t Operation Red Meat, it’s Operation Dog’s Dinner.”

Conservative backbenchers have raised concerns that the plan could create a burden on the already-stretched British military and also questioned whether it would actually work to stop arrivals due to the absence of a post-Brexit agreement with the EU or its member countries to return undocumented migrants.

Meanwhile, the Labour party also criticised the new plan. Labour’s Shadow Defense Secretary John Healey accused ministers of being “desperate to distract attention” from accusations of lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street. He said: “The military are there to protect the nation, not to protect Tory ministers,”.

SNP home affairs spokesman Stuart C. McDonald also criticised the plans for being more about the protection of the Prime Minister than the safety of asylum seekers, he said:

“The proposals leaked out over the weekend have absolutely nothing to do with saving lives, everything to do with saving the Prime Minister’s career and her own political career…The Home Secretary sending in the Royal Navy against small boats full of refugees and asylum seekers is pathetic, it’s inhumane, and an abuse of the Royal Navy.”

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