The 10 political bosses explored the use of powerful sonic weapons to force migrants to turn back in the English Channel, amid a growing row over how to handle the situation.
Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) are already installed on two Border Force vessels but are used to issue voice commands. They were purchased by the Ministry of Defense for use as loudspeakers during the 2012 Olympics in London.
However, Downing Street policy pundits have called for them to be used as sound cannons that emit loud, high-frequency noise powerful enough to induce vomiting.
Currently used in the United States to disperse crowds and tested by the Greek government against migrants crossing the sea, their use is controversial.
The request was rejected by the Home Office after senior officials suggested the plan would not work.
It comes amid a growing blame game over the failure to stop people crossing the Channel in small boats, despite repeated political announcements and promises to get their act together.
The navy is ready to take central command of the matter after the Home Office secured the Prime Minister’s backing for the plan.
A Home Office source said the navy’s involvement would protect against proposed strike action by Border Force personnel angered by plans to push back small boats in the English Channel.
The French government has said that such a plan would be illegal and that it would not accept migrants being returned to its waters in this way.
Sky News has learned that the Prime Minister expressed his frustration with Home Secretary Priti Patel during a meeting late last year. after the death of nearly 30 people during a level crossing at the end of November.
A senior Home Office source said Ms Patel had been pushing for military involvement for some time and had been repeatedly blocked despite the increase in crossings.
They added: “Everyone is frustrated with the situation but the only person coming up with workable ideas is Priti. No one else has come up with anything useful and if other departments had done their leaves earlier, we wouldn’t be in this situation now.”
Currently “no plans” to use devices
A department spokesperson said it was “not currently planned” to use the sonic devices to deter migrants, but added: “As part of our ongoing operational response and to prevent further casualties of life at sea, we continue to test a range of safe and legal options to prevent small boats from making this dangerous and unnecessary journey.”
A MoD source said research had been carried out jointly with the Home Office into the use of LRADs in the English Channel, but the plan had been rejected as it would not work.
LRAD devices are used by the Ministry of Defense Police Marine Unit on the Clyde.
A Ministry of Defense spokesman added: “An unacceptable number of people continue to cross the English Channel dangerously and the tragic deaths of last November are the strongest reminder of the need to stop them.
“The government is exploring all avenues to prevent further crossings and details on how to achieve this will be communicated in due course.”
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Man trying to cross the English Channel dies under negative conditions
2021 marks a record year with over 28,300 people entering the UK via the English Channel
Other ideas to prevent crossings have already been suggested and later dropped, including the use of nets – which was proposed by a Home Office official in October 2020.
Number 10 has been approached for comment.
Labour’s Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “No 10 seems to have lost all sense of respect or humanity if he can stoop that low for the headlines.
Targeting sonic weapons at people in small boats won’t stop criminal gangs from taking advantage, it will just put more lives at risk. The Ministry of the Interior is right to reject it.
“Time and time again, we get information about unworkable and dangerous policies to grab headlines instead of working hard to fix the problems.”