British commander to stop migrants crossing Channel in small boats

London: Britain has appointed a commander to lead its response to illegal small-boat crossings across the English Channel and said it was exploring tougher action after a spate of migrant arrivals.

Taking advantage of calm sea conditions, hundreds of people including children and pregnant women have made the dangerous crossing in recent days in rubber dinghies and small vessels.

A Border Force vessel brings a group of people thought to be migrants into the port city of Dover, southern England, on Sunday.Credit:PA/AP

On Sunday, the British Border Force said it was dealing with "ongoing small boat incidents" off the coast of Kent in southern England, 33-kilometre across the Channel from France.

Interior Minister Priti Patel said the UK was working to make the route "unviable" and named Dan O'Mahoney, a former Royal Marine, as Britain's Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, creating a new role to deal with the issue.

He would "urgently explore tougher action in France", a statement from the Interior Ministry said, referring to plans to intercept boats at sea and try to return them.

A British Border Force vessel carries a group of men thought to be migrants into Dover harbour, Southern England, last week. Credit:PA

The government asked Britain's armed forces to help deal with the boats carrying migrants on Saturday, when the ministry said 15 vessels were brought to the UK carrying 151 migrants.

UK and French officials are set to hold talks next week and London's Telegraph newspaper said France was set to ask Britain to pay £30 million ($54 million) to bolster its policing of the maritime border in the Channel.

A French Interior Ministry spokesman neither confirmed nor denied the report.

"There will be discussions this week to continue the strengthening of bilateral cooperation in the fight against illegal crossings of the English Channel,” the spokesman said.

O'Mahoney said he wanted to focus on ending the "heinous crime" of people smuggling across the Channel. He has previously worked as director of the UK's Joint Maritime Security Centre and held a senior position at the National Crime Agency.


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