Defence chiefs are yet to decide if they will accept the request from the Home Secretary. It is understood that it will be considered over the weekend as Border Force desperately tries to avert a crisis at Britain’s borders after Public and Commercial Services union members in 126 areas of government-backed strikes.
The union has warned it will agree to a “programme of sustained industrial action” unless “substantial proposals” are received by the Government by next Friday.
The Home Office on Friday confirmed it had requested military personnel be deployed, declaring “our priority will always be to keep our citizens safe and borders secure, and we will not compromise on this”.
Members of the armed services could be asked to process migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats, check passports at ports and airports and ensure queues are kept as short as possible.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the union has voted in favour of industrial action.
“Our priority will always be to keep our citizens safe and borders secure, and we will not compromise on this.
“As the public would expect, we have plans in place to minimise potential disruption during possible strike action, while still carrying out essential checks.”
Former defence minister John Spellar said: “They very much do not like getting involved in industrial disputes.
“They’re also being used willy-nilly in a way they shouldn’t be, particularly when there have been cuts to their numbers and there is a major security situation in Europe.
“If they have got spare troops they should be putting them in Estonia.”
Military and Home Office chiefs are locked in discussions about whether the Royal Navy will be responsible for the boats crossing the Channel.
Currently, under Operation Isotrope, the Royal Navy detects small boats using their high-tech radars and dispatches different assets – including Border Force cutters – to pick up them up.
This arrangement comes to an end in January, with officials understood to be preparing to hand the responsibility back to France.
One Albanian migrant, identified only as Gobi, said: “I was very frightened because there weren’t many life jackets.
“I didn’t think too much.
“We took that risk and most people were afraid.
“When we reached English waters, we notified English police: ‘we are in danger, can you help us?’
“They came, helped us and took us to the shore,” he said.”
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama told Sky News: “I never heard an apology, which brings me to think that instead of an exaggerated expression of frustration, this was a calculated attack.
“And this is what is the most worrisome.
“When you apologise, it’s okay – it happened.
“When you don’t, and when you avoid it, then it means that you want something from what’s said. So, it means that there is a calculation behind it, it means that you really are talking to a certain number of voters that want to hear this.
It comes as UK authorities and maritime agencies are bracing for a “significant surge” in small boat crossings this weekend amid fears of a surge in crossings over the coming days.
Social media site TikTok has been awash with advertisements for crossings, with many reflecting the upcoming changing weather conditions.
A Border Force source said: “The people smuggling gangs have become very experienced in reading both weather and tide in the Channel.
“They know these little boats would have stood little chance in crossing in recent days. They need the winds in particular to die down.”
He said authorities on both sides of the Channel will be out in force over the next few days to deal with the expected surge.
“We’re going to see vastly improved weather conditions this weekend, with the winds dying right down until Monday.
“It’s a three-day weather window the people smugglers will take full advantage of, as the suitable days for crossing become far fewer as we head into the winter months.”