A bolstered response to curb migrant crossings came into force on Tuesday 31 January, as leadership of tackling small boats in the Channel returned to the Home Office.

The newly created Small Boats Operational Command (SBOC), which is part of Border Force, brings together the government’s response to small boats under a single integrated structure, enhancing the work conducted alongside the military last year.

730 additional staff

To support this, 730 additional staff will be recruited, with 100 of these located inside its UK headquarters, while the remainder will bolster operations.

New air and maritime capabilities including new drones, boats, land-based radar and cameras, will also be introduced under SBOC. This will aid our ability to track vessels on the water, identify pilots and help to bring those responsible to justice.

The SBOC, which will be led in the interim by director Duncan Capps, will strengthen existing capabilities to oversee operations with the French to disrupt crossings, save lives at sea and ensure the effective processing of arrivals in the UK.

Military leadership of the operational response to Channel crossings was always intended to be a temporary measure and scheduled to end in January 2023. SBOC will continue to work closely with the military during a handover period to respond to the challenge of Channel crossings.

The command, through additional staff and new technologies, along with close working with NCA and other European partners, will deliver a more coordinated response in the Channel.

A government spokesperson has said: “Last year we saw an unsustainable and unacceptable number of people risking their lives to reach the UK illegally.

“This simply cannot continue and that is why we are taking immediate steps to tackle the evil people-smuggling gangs behind these deadly crossings and get our immigration system under control.

“The return of Channel primacy to the Home Office, bolstered by 730 extra staff and led by director Duncan Capps, is a significant landmark in our long-term plan to ensure the safety and sovereignty of our borders and our 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.

By Ed

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