Two UK Border Force cutters will be redeployed to the English Channel from overseas, Sajid Javid has announced.
It comes after more than 100 people attempted to migrate across the sea from France during the Christmas period.
On New Year’s Eve a group of 12 people who said they were Iranian, including a 10-year-old child and two women, was detained on a beach at Greatstone in Kent, the Home Office said.
Mr Javid cut short his Christmas break to deal with what the government has declared a “major incident”.
Campaigners have accused ministers of blowing the crossings “out of proportion”. Nevertheless, the home secretary said on Monday that the issue remained a “very serious concern”.
About 230 migrants had sought to cross the Channel in December but “just under half have actually been disrupted by the French and never actually made it in terms of leaving the French coast”, he said.
Speaking after a meeting with senior officials from the National Crime Agency and Border Force, he said: “It’s both about protecting human life but also about protecting our borders.
“When it comes to human life, clearly I want to make sure that we are doing all we can to protect people.
“We must remember that this is one of the most treacherous stretches of water that there is, 21 miles with people taking grave risk, really putting their lives into their own hands by taking this journey.”
He added: “I have made a decision today to redeploy two of the Border Force’s largest vessels, known as cutters, from abroad back to the UK, to southeast England, and they will be joining a cutter that is already there and two other coastal patrol vessels.
“This will help both with the human side of this situation but also to better protect our borders.”
The Home Office said it continually reviewed the deployment of the six cutters belonging to the Border Force. It will keep one in the Mediterranean to support the Frontex European humanitarian mission, it added.
Earlier on Monday Mr Javid admitted there were “no easy answers” to the crossings, in which migrants risk their lives in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
“The reasons behind the increased crossings are complicated, and in many cases outside of our control,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
Fellow Conservatives had accused him of lacking urgency and on Sunday the home secretary agreed an “enhanced action plan” with his French counterpart, Christophe Castaner.
Additional reporting by PA
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