A British man and an Iranian national have been detained on suspicion of helping migrants to cross the English Channel into the UK.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) confirmed the arrests in Manchester in a statement on Wednesday evening.

It said: “NCA officers have tonight (2 January 2019) arrested a 33-year-old Iranian national and a 24-year-old British man in Manchester, on suspicion of arranging the illegal movement of migrants across the English Channel into the UK.

“As the investigation is ongoing, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Royal Navy ships were continuing patrols.

A spokesperson said: “Our Armed Forces stand ready to provide additional capacity and expertise to assist the Home Office with the response to migrant crossings.

“Royal Navy ships continue to conduct patrols to protect the integrity of UK territorial waters.”

The MoD said offshore patrol vessel HMS Mersey was “available and ready” to be deployed.

Its use would signal an escalation of the UK’s response to the migrant situation after Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced the redeployment of two Border Force cutters from the Mediterranean earlier this week.

The arrests come as he reportedly wrote to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson requesting a military patrol vessel, dozens of sailors and aerial surveillance to put a stop to the crossings from France.

According to The Daily Telegraph, discussions are still ongoing about whether the Home Office or the Ministry or Defence should foot the £20,000-a-day bill for the cost of the vessel.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid meeting Border Force staff on board HMC Searcher in Dover, Kent
Image: Sajid Javid has faced criticism for questioning whether migrants were ‘genuine’

Earlier on Wednesday, the home secretary questioned whether migrants using small boats to cross the Channel were “genuine” asylum seekers.

Speaking during a visit to Dover, Mr Javid said: “A question has to be asked: if you are a genuine asylum seeker why have you not sought asylum in the first safe country that you arrived in?

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“Because France is not a country where anyone would argue it is not safe in anyway whatsoever, and if you are genuine then why not seek asylum in your first safe country?”

The home secretary’s comments have been criticised by opposition MPs and charities, with many pointing out that the UK has to assess asylum claims fairly.

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