Home Office resumes responsibility for stopping small boat crossings

The Home Office is resuming responsibility for operations to tackle small boats carrying migrants across the Channel after eight months under the leadership of the Royal Navy.

The move follows the creation announced last month of the new small boats operational command (SBOC), bringing together military and civilian staff and the National Crime Agency to co-ordinate the Government’s response.

It comes as the Home Secretary warned failure to stop the boats could cost the Conservatives the next election.

The Home Office said the SBOC – which uses drones, boats and land-based radar and cameras to track and disrupt people traffickers – will be bolstered with the recruitment of 730 additional staff.

Then prime minister Boris Johnson originally handed leadership for operations in the Channel to the Navy as a temporary measure last April but migrants continued to arrive in record numbers.

More than 40,000 people have crossed the Channel to the UK since then.

A Government spokesman said the return of responsibility to the Home Office was a “significant landmark” in the long term to ensure the safety and sovereignty of the UK’s borders and communities.

“We are building on the progress already made through the new deal with France, and our determination will not waiver until we stop the abuse of the asylum system and bring the smugglers responsible to justice,” the spokesman said.

So far this year, 1,180 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel.

A record 45,755 people succeeded in making the journey last year, according to the latest Government figures.

In November, the Government signed a fresh £63 million pound deal with France to step up patrols and boost surveillance as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “grip illegal migration”.

On Tuesday, Suella Braverman called on Conservative MPs to get behind the Government’s efforts to crack down on crossings, telling the Daily Telegraph the party’s reputation was “on the line”.

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said the “professionalism and expert skills” of the Royal Navy and other military “have resulted in significant changes in detection and interception, which have resulted in fewer small boats actually reaching our shores, in spite of much larger numbers making the perilous crossing”, adding: “It is vital that this is maintained as the Home Office take back control of the Channel command.”