Strategic Change in Channel Patrols
In a significant shift, Border Force cutters have been withdrawn from patrolling the English Channel for illegal small boats, leaving the task to private vessels used for wind farm servicing.
This decision, driven by cost considerations, is estimated to burden taxpayers with an annual expense of up to £36 million.
Border Force Cutters Idle Last Year
Home Office officials admitted that in the preceding year, none of the Border Force ships or government-owned vessels were utilized to handle small boat incidents.
At least three out of the five government-owned cutters were inactive due to prolonged periods of repair or maintenance.
Private Catamarans Take Center Stage
To compensate for the absence of government vessels, the UK government opted to invest millions in a fleet of private catamarans typically designated for offshore wind farms.
These private vessels now constitute the sole patrols in the English Channel, a hotspot where migrants attempt to reach British shores from France regularly.
Commercial Transfer Vessels Lead Operations
Commercial transfer vessels played a pivotal role in responding to small boat incidents, with private catamarans stepping in for 544 out of 604 cases.
Contrarily, the six coastal patrol ships and five government-owned vessels remained unused throughout the year, according to Home Office minister Michael Tomlinson.
Strategic Use of Commercial Transfer Vessels
The government’s reliance on Commercial Transfer Vessels (CTVs) like Defender, Hurricane, Ranger, Typhoon, and Volunteer was confirmed by Tomlinson.
These CTVs, equipped with Border Force officials and their private crews, handled small boat operations effectively.
Official Explanation for Private Vessel Deployment
The Home Office justified the use of private vessels, stating that large boats like cutters and coastal patrol vessels are unsuitable for rescue and recovery operations.
By deploying alternative private vessels, Border Force cutters were freed up to safeguard the broader UK border.
Channel Crossings and Arrival Statistics
Despite this change in patrol strategy, the English Channel continues to witness migrant crossings.
On February 10, more than 120 migrants arrived in three small boats, bringing the total number of arrivals in 2024 to 1,506. Though this figure is lower than the same period in 2023, it remains a concern for border authorities.
Channel Crossings Over the Years
The statistics reveal a fluctuating trend in Channel crossings over the years, with a considerable increase since 2018.
While 2018 saw 299 migrants crossing, the numbers escalated to 45,744 in 2022. Though 2023 recorded a slight reduction to 29,437, the overall trend indicates a rising challenge for border control.
Since January 2018, over 115,000 people have successfully crossed the Channel, averaging 52 people per day.Share on Facebook «||» Share on Twitter «||» Share on Reddit «||» Share on LinkedIn