NWI - Naval Warfare

HMS Mersey joins patrol for Channel migrant dinghies

4th January 2019 - 12:30 GMT | by ​Agence France-Presse in London

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A UK Royal Navy ship was patrolling the Channel on 4 January in response to a wave of mostly Iranian asylum seekers risking the crossing from France in dinghies.

HMS Mersey is filling the gap until two Border Force cutters return from the European Union's Mediterranean migrant crossings mission.

The OPV and 45 crew left the Channel port of Portsmouth on 3 January.

Attempts to get to Britain by crossing the world's busiest shipping lane in tiny craft have surged in the last three months, with numbers spiking over the Christmas holidays.

'HMS Mersey will deploy to the Dover Straits to assist the UK Border Force and French authorities with their response to migrant crossings,' said UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

'The crew have been able to immediately divert from routine operations to help prevent migrants from making the dangerous journey across the Channel.'

Two coastal patrol vessels and two UK Border Force cutters are already deployed in the Channel. Any migrants found in British waters are taken to a UK port.

The UK will keep one Border Force cutter on the EU Mediterranean mission and bring two back: Protector, which is anchored at the Greek island of Lesbos, and Seeker, which is docked in the overseas territory of Gibraltar.

Meanwhile, detectives are continuing to question two men arrested on suspicion of arranging the illegal movement of migrants into Britain.

A 33-year-old Iranian national and a 24-year-old British man, arrested in Manchester on 2 January, remain in police custody.

Some 539 people crossed the Dover Straits - the Channel's narrowest part at 21 miles wide - in 2018, 80 percent making the journey in the last three months.

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