The British Home Secretary is resisting calls for more patrol boats to be deployed to the Channel to tackle the migrant crisis despite last night declaring it a "major incident".

Sajid Javid broke off from his holiday to "take control" of the situation as a further 12 migrants landed in Dover, bringing to 90 the number rescued since Christmas Day.

Despite pressure from Tory colleagues, French politicians and the military, Javid is reluctant to order additional boats to the Channel, for fear it could encourage more migrants to attempt the crossing.

A Home Office source said: "We believe we have enough boats operationally to deal with it. The bigger issue is to prevent the migrants coming in the first place by targeting the people smugglers."


It was unclear last night, however, what further action the Home Office planned to take, beyond the current sea patrols and ongoing joint Anglo-French operations involving the National Crime Agency (NCA).

As he declared the crisis a "major incident", Javid, who is seen as a potential successor to Theresa May, appointed a "Gold Commander" to oversee the situation and was briefed by officials from the Border Force, NCA and Immigration Enforcement.

He will hold talks this weekend with his French counterpart, interior minister Christopher Castaner, to establish how joint operations could be extended and what more could be done to stop the traffickers.

In response to calls for extra boats in the Channel, Javid has commissioned the Border Force to review options and decide "whether this is likely to encourage more people to try to make the crossing rather than act as a deterrence".

The Border Force has just one of its five cutters and two Coastal Patrol Vessels (CPVs) currently policing the Channel and picking up migrants.

One of the three Border Force cutters helping with the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean has been recalled and is on its way back to Britain, so would be available to be deployed within weeks. The fifth is under repair.

The Ministry of Defence also has an offshore patrol vessel, HMS Mersey, on "high readiness" in Portsmouth, which could also be deployed by the Home Office at a cost to it of £20,000 ($38,000) a day. The Home Office is yet to request any assistance from the MoD.

Officials opposed to further deployment point to evidence that migrants are already deliberately setting out from France with the aim of being rescued. Coastguard sources disclosed yesterday that some migrants are calling 999 once they are mid-Channel so they can be picked up and brought to Dover to claim asylum.


Dover Tory MP Charlie Elphicke welcomed Mr Javid's move but added: "Now we need a clear strategy to defeat the traffickers. Let's start by bringing back our cutters to the English Channel."

Tim Loughton, a senior member of the home affairs committee, said the "woefully inadequate" sea patrols needed to be stepped up with more boats, alongside deployment of the Army and any available Navy boats. "The Border Force hasn't got the resources to cover it," he said.

"But ultimately what we need is a system where those picked up in the Channel are taken back to where they came from in France or Belgium to deter others from following them. That's perfectly possible under the Dublin agreement."

Ex-defence minister Lord West, a former head of the Navy, said the number of ships should be increased in the Channel alongside airborne surveillance. "If you look at the French, they have hundreds of boats, we have just tens. It's completely ludicrous. We need more assets," he said.

Xavier Bertrand, president of the Hauts de France region from where migrants make their dangerous crossings, called for new joint Franco-British coastguard patrols to block the journeys.

He said both countries had the necessary boats and manpower to deliver such patrols if they chose to, and said the operation could be co-financed under the Sandhurst agreement signed in January.

- originally published in the Telegraph