Military Needed to Confront Growing Migrant Crisis, Says Former UK Border Force Chief

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AFP

The British government should consider tasking the Armed Forces to assist border patrols in the English Channel to confront the migrant crisis, said the former head of the UK Border Force.

Tony Smith, former director-general of Border Force said that the Home Office should look to the military and police to assist in the growing migrant crisis because he doesn’t “think we are coping” with the record numbers of illegal migrants.

Smith told The Telegraph that Home Secretary Priti Patel should “stop pretending” that the Home Office alone is capable of stemming the tide of migrants.

The former Border Force chief called for a “joint agency approach that could include military, police and a full range of UK assets to support the defence of our border and management of irregular migration” through the establishment of a new “command centre with proper reception facilities”.

“I was delighted to go into meetings with the military, people who have a huge range of capabilities. They can build a warehouse in a day. They are awesome. The Home Office cannot do that by outsourcing to private companies,” he said.

Even with the inclusion of the military, Smith said that the growing migrant crisis will not be abated any time soon.

“There doesn’t seem to be a long term masterplan which is about accepting that this is going to be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future and stop pretending that we are going to be able to stop this.

“I would be pressing for a more concentrated strategic management plan based on the fact that we have not been able to stop the boats.

“That should still be our political ambition, but the plain fact is that without an agreement with the French to take them back, we are not going to be able to do instant returns back to France.”

Smith also noted that with the record numbers of migrants being brought ashore in Britain, the Border Force is unable to process all the illegals and test them for the coronavirus, which leaves “officers feeling very nervous that they will catch it”, adding: “It feels a bit chaotic to me.”

Mr Smith has previously called for the government to take a unilateral turn back the boat approach to the migrant crisis, saying last year: “If they want to come to the UK they need to make their case on the French side, and if they are found in the waterways or even make it as far as Dover we say ‘I’m sorry but you go back there and that’s where you will be interviewed and processed, on the French side’.”

This strategy has been championed by Brexit leader Nigel Farage, the Migration Watch UK think tank and former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Mr Abbott successfully enacted such a policy through his Operation Sovereign Borders plan, which mandated that illegal migrants are sent back to their country of origin or to a third country for their asylum claims to be processed.

The policy effectively eliminated Australia’s boat migrant problem from countries like Indonesia, by removing the incentives for people smugglers and migrants to make the journey.

In May of last year, Mr Abbott said: “The French have no right to wave-on their problems to Britain just because they are unwilling or unable to control their own borders.”

“Plainly, this will require a degree of determination and planning on Britain’s part. The French may not like to hear ‘they shall not pass’ from Britons… Still, in the long run, this is for France’s good too; as the only way to clear the camps in Calais is to ensure that none of their occupants can ever get across the Channel and stay,” he added.

There has been little indication that Home Secretary Priti Patel will take such unilateral actions amid months of failing to secure a deal with the French on the return of illegal migrants.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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