UK trialled a ‘Channel blockade’ to deter Illegal migrants, according to leaked official documents


Trials have been taking place to test a blockade in the English Channel similar to Australia’s “turn back the boats” tactic, according to official documents seen by the Guardian.

The documents, produced in mid-September and marked “official” and “sensitive”, show advice from officials who were asked by Downing Street to consider “possible options for negotiating an offshore asylum processing facility similar to the Australian model in Papua New Guinea and Nauru”.


Back in August, it was reported that the government was planning to approach the French Government for cooperation in using Royal Navy and Border Force boats to block the path of migrants attempting to reach the United Kingdom in small boats.

The leaked document reads: “Trials are currently underway to test a ‘blockade’ tactic in the Channel on the median line between French and UK waters, akin to the Australian ‘Turn Back’ tactic, whereby migrant boats would be physically prevented (most likely by one or more UK RHIBs [rigid hull inflatable boats] from entering UK waters.”

The “turn back the boats” policy was developed by former Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who was recently appointed the UK government’s new trade adviser, under Operation Sovereign Borders. It involves turning back boats to the country of embarkation before they reach Australian waters.

Downing Street has said it would not comment on each of the leaked measures but said the government would soon bring forward “a package of measures” to address illegal migration once the UK has left the EU.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We are developing plans around illegal migration and asylum to ensure that we’re able to provide protection to those who need it, while preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it.

“That includes looking at what a whole host of other countries do. But the work is ongoing. There’s an awful lot of speculation around today and I don’t plan on adding anything beyond that.”

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