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Defence Committee to hold session on use of the military to counter migrant crossings

19 January 2022

The Defence Committee announces a session on the use of the military in countering migrant crossings in the Channel, known as “Operation Isotrope”.

The Committee will explore the process that led to the decision to start Operation Isotrope, including involvement of the National Security Council. The Committee will ask how the Government intends to measure the success of the operation.

The Committee will seek to establish which assets will be deployed, what the rules of engagement will be and how long the operation is expected to last. The Committee will examine what the projected costs of the operations are, and which Department will bear them, as well as what the potential impact may be on other Defence commitments and the possible involvement of the Army and RAF.

The Committee will also ask whether there will be military engagement and cooperation with the French armed forces and civilian authorities.

The Committee will ask what capabilities the Armed Forces add to operations that are not available to the Border Force, and whether this represents a permanent move of Border Force policy from the Home Office to the Ministry of Defence (MOD). The Committee will explore what training could be offered to the Border Force to take over operations.

The Committee‘s evidence session will be next week, on the 26 January. The Committee has invited ministers from the MOD and Home Office to appear. The Committee encourages evidence, on any or all of the questions below, to be submitted by the 25 January.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood MP, said: 

“The Government’s decision that the Royal Navy should take over operations in the Channel has taken Parliament (and it seems the MOD) by surprise.

There are significant strategic and operational implications surrounding this commitment which need to be explored.

National security and migration control sit firmly under the remit of the Home Office, yet the Government has shifted this responsibility to the MOD. So far, details on Operation ISOTROPE are scant and decision making opaque. Despite proposals being revealed over the weekend, it is clear from Parliamentary Urgent Questions this week that the mission is still in the planning phase.

While our Armed Forces are more than capable of aiding efforts to control illegal migrant crossings, an operation of this scale is likely to distract from the core duties of an already overstretched Navy.

Next week’s session will allow the Committee to explore how this landed on the desk of the MOD, how it will be paid for, and how success will be measured.”

The Committee welcomes evidence on the following:

  • What should the role of the Navy be in countering migrant crossings of the Channel?
  • What was the process that led to the decision to start the operation and was the National Security Council involved? How does this fit within the terms of the Integrated Review?
  • What are the operational and political (A) reporting arrangements and (B) associated chain of command, up to and including Cabinet?
  • What capabilities do the Armed Forces, particularly the Royal Navy, bring that were not available to the Border Force?
  • Is this a permanent move of Border Force policy from Home Office to MOD and will the budget be moved accordingly?
  • What assets will be engaged (including personnel and the military estate)? Will the Army a the RAF be involved?
  • What will the rules of engagement be? Under what legal basis is the operation taking place?
  • What military engagement and cooperation will there be with the French armed forces and civilian authorities?
  • What is the potential impact on other Defence commitments?
  • What role will the private sector play, for example in the supply of equipment and crew?
  • What consideration will be given to training the Border Force to take over operations?
  • How long is the operation expected to last? How will its success be measured? How will mission creep be prevented?
  • What are the projected costs of the operation? Who will pay them?

Form of written evidence

Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 words. The main body of any submission should use numbered paragraphs. Each submission should contain: 

  • a short summary, perhaps in bullet point form;
  • a brief introduction about the person or organisation submitting evidence, for example explaining their area of expertise or experience;
  • any factual information from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses;
  • any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the submitter would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House.

Submissions should be in malleable format such as MS Word (not PDFs) with no use of colour or logos. Submissions should be arranged in numbered paragraphs.

Guidance on submitting written evidence and data protection information is available here: Guidance on submitting written evidence.

Deadline for submissions

The Committee is asking for written evidence to be submitted through the Committee’s web portal by 09:00 Tuesday 25 January 2022.

It is recommended that all submitters familiarise themselves with the Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons which outlines particulars of word count, format, document size, and content restrictions.


We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind when we ask them to choose a representative. We are currently monitoring the diversity of our witnesses. 

Image: UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021