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HMS Mersey to patrol Dover Strait amid migrant influx

By Sean Axtell

A Royal Navy ship has been scrambled to patrol the English Channel in the latest effort to address the influx of migrants.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said last night HMS Mersey will assist Border Force after being diverted from routine operations.

It comes after Home Secretary Sajid Javid called on naval support to join two Border Force cutters to in patrolling the Dover Strait.

Mr Williamson said: “I can confirm that HMS Mersey will deploy to the Dover Straits to assist the UK Border Force and French authorities with their response to migrant crossings.

“The professionalism of the Royal Navy means the crew have been able to immediately divert from routine operations to help prevent migrants from making the dangerous journey across the Channel.”

Combat ship HMS Mersey is currently patrolling the ocean between Britain and France.

Travelling at two knots, the 2002 ship is just passing Eastbourne on its way back to Kent.

Several miles off the British coast, the ship has swept from Portsmouth past Brighton, Eastbourne, Hastings and up to Hythe in the past 24 hours, according to MarineTraffic.com

HMS Mersey is one of four Royal Navy river class patrol vessels.

HMS Mersey is patrolling the Dover Strait. Picture: Royal Navy
HMS Mersey is patrolling the Dover Strait. Picture: Royal Navy

With a crew of almost 50 sailors it has a range of 7,800 sea miles, according to the Royal Navy website.

Meanwhile Mr Javid said two Border Force cutters are returning from the Mediterranean to help survey British waters.

However HMC Valiant is reportedly being serviced in a port near Athens, while HMC Seeker and HMC Searcher are still off the Gibraltar coast, according to the ship tracking website.

Around 200 suspected migrants were found crossing the Channel over the Christmas period.

On December 30, six Iranian men were pictured on Kingsdown Beach near Dover.

Border Force officers were called to another group in Greatstone the day after.

It comes as the Kent Anti-Racism Network is to hold vigil in Ramsgate calling for compassion towards migrants crossing the Channel.

In all there have been 33 recorded incidents of 270 known or suspected migrants, trying to reach Britain since November 8, nearly all in small crafts.

Detectives continue to question two men arrested on suspicion of arranging the illegal movement of migrants into the UK.

A National Crime Agency spokesman said a 33-year-old Iranian national and 24-year-old British man were arrested in Manchester on Wednesday evening.

They remain in police custody.

A spokesman said: "We have a custody extension until Saturday, when I imagine we should have more to update on."

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