Military involvement with migrant crossings 'sums up moral decay' in UK Government, says Nicola Sturgeon

Using the military to limit crossings by asylum seekers in the English Channel is “another sign of the moral decay” within the UK Government, the First Minister has said.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon criticised the potential new policy around migrant crossings

Nicola Sturgeon labelled potential Home Office plans to use the Navy to send people crossing the Channel back to France while they are in their boats as “dangerous”.

The SNP leader said the policy of involving the military was also being used as a diversion tactic by the UK Government to stop people talking about the ongoing ‘partygate’ scandal and threat to Boris Johnson’s premiership.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Last weekend, reports on the BBC and in The Times claimed the Navy was set to take charge of operations looking to limit crossings by asylum seekers in the Channel within weeks.

This was reportedly part of ‘Operation Red Meat’ – the announcement of populist policies designed to take the heat off the Prime Minister.

Refugee charities condemned the move, while Ms Sturgeon also moved to criticise the policy.

She told MSPs during First Minister’s Questions on Thursday the use of refugees as political footballs was “utterly despicable”.

The First Minister said: "The UK Government, though, its plans to divert vessels in the channel are dangerous and I think it is important that we are all clear that they will significantly increase risk to life.

"Medecins San Frontieres stated, and I’m quoting again, that pursuing a policy of forced returns and engaging in pushback tactics is dangerous, inhumane and in breach of international law and puts lives at risk at sea.

"The comments we saw at the weekend for example about the use of military, a bit like the comments on the BBC, were an attempt to divert attention from the self-inflicted troubles of the Prime Minister.”

Ms Sturgeon added: "We should not be using the BBC and we should absolutely not be using refugees and asylum seekers in that way.

"I say we, the UK Government should not be using refugees and asylum seekers in that way.

"It is utterly despicable and I think another sign of the moral decay at the heart of the UK Government.”

A UK Government spokesman said: "The UK armed forces already work closely with Border Force in these operations, providing expertise and assets as part of our processes in the Channel.

"It is right that we pursue all options to prevent illegal crossings and protect life at sea.”

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

It's available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.