Migrant landing forces soldiers to halt live firing exercise at military range

The main entrance to Lydd Camp and Ranges in Lydd, Kent
The main entrance to Lydd Camp and Ranges in Lydd, Kent - (Copyright PA Archive)
10:43am, Thu 15 Oct 2020
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The Army had to stop a firing exercise on the Kent coast as migrants in a boat landed nearby.

Soldiers using live rounds were ordered to pause shooting after a small boat was seen heading towards a “danger area”.

The crossing came despite recent high winds in the English Channel that have rendered journeys in dinghies increasingly difficult.

Emergency services were seen descending on the firing range on Wednesday.

The commotion began during a live firing exercise at Lydd Ranges, when the Dengemarsh lookout spotted a boat drawing near.

The vessel was seen moving towards the Range Danger Area and safety concerns were raised.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents - (Copyright PA Wire)

The Range Conducting Officer “check fired”, meaning that the shooting practice was paused, the PA news agency understands.

Police, coastguard and Border Force were informed of the situation and were later seen arriving at the firing range.

A mix of regular and reserve soldiers were at the military site on Wednesday.

Firing was resumed about two hours later.

The Home Office says 15 people were encountered by Border Force on Thursday.

Dan O’Mahoney, the department’s clandestine channel threat commander, said: “Despite very poor weather in the Channel yesterday, a small boat managed to make this perilous crossing, underlining the extreme danger people smugglers are willing to expose people to for profit.”

More than 7,000 migrants have crossed to the UK aboard small boats in 2020, PA data analysis shows.

Lydd Ranges is a military site located south of the Kent town of Lydd.

It carries the Government warning: “If the red flags and/or lights are hoisted, regardless of the timings, do not enter the training area.

“This is a danger to life.”

The range is a few miles from Lydd Airport, which has recently played host to the Army’s Watchkeeper drone.

The unmanned air system, previously used in Afghanistan, was brought in to fly over the English Channel to monitor migrant boats.

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