The government has been accused of “headline-chasing” following reports officials investigated the use of powerful sonic devices to turn around migrant boats in the Channel.
According to Sky News, No 10 policy officials wanted to use Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) to deter migrants from making the crossing.
LRADs are sonic devices used in the US to deter crowds. Officials reportedly called for them to be used as sound cannons that emit loud, high-frequency noise powerful enough to induce vomiting.
However, the scheme was said to have been blocked by the Home Office after being warned it was unworkable.
The Home Office confirmed that two Border Force vessels were fitted with LRADs for loud hailer communications at sea but said they were not used for “deterrence”.
“As part of our ongoing operational response and to prevent further loss of life at sea, we continue to test a range of safe and legal options to stop small boats making this dangerous and unnecessary journey,” a spokesman said.
“However, we have no plans to use ‘sonic devices’ to deter migrants and to suggest otherwise is wrong and misleading.”
A Ministry of Defence source told Sky News that research had been conducted jointly with the Home Office into the use of LRAD’s in the Channel but the plan had been rejected as it would not work.
It comes after November recorded the Channel’s deadliest day, when 27 people drowned trying to cross.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said in response to the reports that No 10 “seems to have lost any sense of respect or humanity if they can stoop this low for the sake of headlines”.
“Targeting sonic weapons at people in small boats will not stop criminal gangs from profiting, it will just put more lives at risk,” she said. “The Home Office is right to reject it.”
It comes as Boris Johnson signed off a plan to put the military in charge of tackling the number of boats crossing the Channel. The MoD is to take over command of the operation from the Border Force within weeks.
The department confirmed the government is exploring “every avenue” to prevent more crossings, while the Home Office said it was introducing “necessary long-term changes”.
A spokesman for the MoD said: “Unacceptable numbers of people continue to make the dangerous Channel crossings and last November’s tragic deaths serve as the strongest reminder of the need to stop them.”