France, Britain agree action plan on migrant Channel crossings

Arturo Kim
January 1, 2019

Rejecting Mr Javid's suggestion that increasing patrols would encourage more people to attempt the crossing, Mr Elphicke said: "You don't deter burglars by leaving your front door open".

Journeys are being fuelled by instability in the Middle East, organised crime and tighter security at Calais, he said, adding: "Unfortunately there are no easy answers".

The Home Secretary has promised to do more to tackle the issue, saying it is of "grave concern" that people are attempting the perilous crossing.

It pledged to increase joint patrols and surveillance and to dismantle the criminal gangs involved in trafficking.

But Mr Javid faced accusations of over-egging the scale of the problem, with shadow home secretary Diane Abbott telling the Guardian: "There's no question that with Brexit, and also with the approach of the meaningful vote in January, people are being whipped up about migration issues, because the Government thinks this is the best way of frightening people to vote for their deal".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a tweet: "We have a duty to reach out the hand of humanity, support and friendship to people who are in danger and seeking a place of safety".

Mr Elphicke called for more patrol boats to be deployed in the Channel, and said: "For too long the Home Office has not been taking this seriously enough, and the crisis has continued to escalate".

Six Iranian men were found on a Kent beach early on Sunday, in the latest successful crossing of the Channel from France by migrants in inflatable boats.

Lucy Moreton, a spokesman for the Immigration Services Union, said it was "very hard to know" how much the French authorities were doing.

On Friday morning Border Force officials brought the men to shore at Dover and handed them over to immigration officials to be interviewed.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes is to discuss the situation with Border Force officials
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes is to discuss the situation with Border Force officials

Sajid Javid is to chair talks in London later after agreeing a joint action plan with the French interior minister.

"This can not be done on the cheap with the half-hearted Dad's Army-type set-up suggested by the Home Office in the past", he said.

"That is why I will continue to work closely with all partners to ensure we do even more to intercept these boats before they reach the United Kingdom, to tackle the organised crime gangs that facilitate many of these risky journeys, and to deter and protect those driven to make them".

On Friday, Mr Javid declared the situation a "major incident", appointing a "gold commander" to oversee the situation and give daily updates. "Illegal crossings have now been on the increase for more than two months and more needs to be done as a matter of urgency". He conceded there were no "easy answers" to the English Channel migrant crisis.

"Moreover, we can not simply leave it to the French".

A Border Force RIB vessel was pictured on patrol in Dover Harbour on Saturday.

"Everyone knows that the rescues are being done by the RNLI, who are volunteers and going out over the Christmas period making sure people are not at harm on the high seas", said Mr Elphicke.

On Christmas Day, more than 40 migrants tried to cross the sea and enter the UK.

Hogben said "significant resources" were being devoted to helping French authorities disrupt trafficking activities and dozens of crossing have been prevented, while "three suspected facilitators" had been arrested and charged.

"Before that it was not a network, it was individual migrants who were trying to cross".

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