Priti Patel’s threat to send the Royal Navy into the English Channel has been derided and her department’s border policy questioned on Twitter.
The home secretary’s threats come after suggestions a record number of migrants crossed the Channel on Thursday.
The BBC reports up to 235 migrants made the perilous journey across Britain’s maritime border with France, bringing the total of arrivals since January at nearly 3,900 people.
According to a Home Office source in the Daily Mail, Patel has accused France’s border force of deliberately allowing migrants to make the crossing and has now threatened to deploy the Royal Navy to tow any new arrivals back to France.
The move could be illegal under international maritime law and risks alienating the French government, who has partnered with the Home Office to stem the flow of crossings.
Patel has said the Navy may be used to deploy floating “booms” to block the way for migrant dinghies or stop boats by clogging their propellers with nets.
A government source acknowledged these were “all [the] options that are being considered”. The source added: “She [Patel] has instructed her officials to speak to the Ministry of Defence about how we can proceed. She has also requested a discussion with the French interior minister, Gerald Darmanin.”
People vented their frustration with the approach on Twitter, while others questioned the effectiveness.
Otto English wrote: “When Priti Patel says she ‘wants to send in the Navy’ to stop Channel migrant crossings - what’s her intention? Are warships going to fire shells at kids in rubber dinghies? Is a destroyer going to run them over? What are they going to do that the Border Force isn’t?”
Rae Richardson called it a load of “meaningless posturing”. “It’s just a load of meaningless posturing to make the government seem effective. (Good luck with that!),” he wrote.
“The Royal Navy have no authority in French waters so they can’t escort any boats out of UK waters, i.e. they can only do what Border Force are already doing.”
Michael Moran said: “Sending a gunboat is a tried and trusted method of making things worse.”
In October, Patel made a pledge to eliminate crossings by spring and negotiated a deal with French authorities.
The news comes as footage of migrants arriving on the Kent coastline on Thursday surfaced on social media.
The boat carrying the asylum seekers had ten young children and a heavily pregnant woman, among others, on board.
In the footage, the woman is seen holding her head in her hands and appears weary while one of the children lays exhausted on the pebbled beach with his arms spread out.
The Daily Mail suggested the total number of asylum seekers reaching Britain this year is double that from 2019. It failed to provide an explanation for the spike.