Britain and France agree £6m action plan to combat illegal migration

The British and French governments have agreed a new £6 million action plan to combat illegal migration across the English Channel.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid and French interior minister Christophe Castaner vowed to increase joint cooperation after a rise in the number of migrants attempting to cross the “dangerous shipping lane” in small boats.

The two ministers agreed the action plan on Thursday following talks at Westminster and said it will come into force immediately.

They said it was vital to stop vulnerable migrants attempting “treacherous crossings” and to tackle the people smugglers who are putting their lives in danger.

The plan will see more than £6 million invested in new security equipment as well as a mutual commitment to carry out return operations as quickly as possible under the Dublin Regulation.

The Dublin Regulation is an EU law that determines which EU member state is responsible for the examination of an application for asylum.

The plan comes as a “small number of migrants” who made the illegal journey at the end of last year were returned to France on Thursday morning, the Home Office said.

Mr Javid and Mr Castaner also agreed that migrants encountered in the Channel will be taken to the nearest safe port, in accordance with international maritime law.

The Home Office said this will build on the success of the French authorities in preventing attempted departures from French ports and beaches which has seen 44 successful disruptions covering 267 people since January 2018.

It said the UK will continue to work closely with France and other countries to return more migrants who have entered the UK by small boat in order to provide a strong deterrent against the dangerous crossings.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Migrant Channel crossing incidents

Both governments have stressed that all criminals will be prosecuted.

Mr Javid said the plan increases joint action to secure both borders and discourage the “dangerous” attempts to cross the Channel in small boats.

He added: “It is vital we continue to work closely with our French partners to stop vulnerable migrants making these treacherous crossings and tackle the people smugglers who are putting their lives in danger.”

Mr Castaner added: “By combating illegal Channel crossings by migrants, we’re saving lives and deterring new migrants from coming to Hauts-de-France.”

Mr Javid cut short his Christmas break last month to deal with what he described as a “major incident” unfolding in waters off the south coast and pledged to do more to tackle the issue.

The UK has agreed to allocate more than £6 million to support France’s regional action plan to bolster surveillance and security on French beaches and ports which has been in place since early January.

Just over half of the investment will come from £44.5 million already allocated under the Sandhurst Treaty on UK-France cooperation signed by Prime Minister Theresa May and President Macron in January 2018.

An additional £3.2 million of new funding will be used for equipment and measures to tackle illegal migration by small boats, such as CCTV, night goggles and number plate recognition capability.

Additional security cameras will be installed at French ports and in areas where migrants may attempt to embark boats which will be fed live to the UK-France Coordination and Information Centre in Calais.

There will be increased surveillance of the Channel by air and boat patrols, with shared intelligence between UK and French authorities.

Foot patrols across beaches and coastal areas by the French police will be ramped up, and attempted crossings will be disrupted.