British navy joins patrol for migrant

LONDON (AFP): A British navy ship was patrolling the Channel on Friday 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. Her Majesty’s Ship Mersey, an offshore patrol vessel with a crew of around 45, left the Channel port of Portsmouth on Thursday.

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 Britain’s 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.”

The navy ship will help “keep the UK border secure and prevent loss of life”, the Home Office interior ministry said. Two coastal patrol vessels and two Border Force cutters are already deployed in the Channel.