USING naval vessels to block migrant dinghies may lead to more drowings in the English Channel, the UN has warned UK authorities.

More than 2400 people are understood to have made the crossing from France this year, prompting a crackdown threat from Westminster.

But saving lives, not intercepting migrant boats, should be the "first priority" on the waterway, the UK Government has been told.

Tony Smith, the former head of the UK Border Force, has called for authorities to intercept the small vessels attempting to cross to England and send those on board back to France.

Smith said this would stop the smugglers paid by desperate migrants to help them make the journey.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and minister Chris Philp have both stated that they are reviewing the laws that prevent "stronger action" against illegal migration.

And on Thursday Dan O'Mahoney, Patel's newly-appointed Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, said: "These crossings are dangerous and unnecessary and I am determined to stop them.

"We will continue to go after the heinous criminals and organised crime networks putting people's lives at risk."

Now UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have said they are "troubled" by the proposal and warn that deploying large naval vessels to "block small, flimsy dinghies may result in harmful and fatal incidents".

It says that while the number of those attempting the journey has increased this summer, the figure is "low and manageable" and other solutions can be found.

The agency said: "People forced by wars and persecution to flee their homes and people on the move frequently embark on risky journeys in many parts of the world. Saving lives should be the first priority – both on land and at sea.

"UNHCR and IOM reiterate their call to governments in Europe and elsewhere to increase search and rescue efforts and combat human smuggling and trafficking rings."

It went on: "UNHCR research shows that delays and administrative barriers to family reunion increase the likelihood of people turning to smugglers as an alternative. Less restrictive and burdensome family reunion rules are therefore needed."

Pascale Moreau, UNHCR director for Europe, said: "Irregular movements in the Channel represent a challenge for all states concerned as do similar situations in other regions of Europe. These multi-faceted challenges require practical solutions and cooperation.

"Our collective response should be comprehensive and complementary - from saving lives to combating smuggling rings, expanding legal options, and ensuring that all those who are in need of protection can effectively access it."