French step up measures to counter cross-Channel migrant boats

The French authorities have set out plans to prevent migrants in small boats risking the dangerous cross-Channel crossing to England.

Measures being taken include improved co-operation between law enforcement agencies and more surveillance and security on beaches along the northern French coastline.

The moves by the French authorities come after a Royal Navy vessel was deployed to patrol the Strait of Dover amid concern about the increase in crossings.

French interior minister Christophe Castaner said: “This plan should allow us to end these crossings by migrants who are not only illegal but also extremely dangerous.

“It is in our interest, as it is for the UK, to not allow new smugglers to operate which would attract new migrants.”

The French said 71 crossing attempts were recorded last year, compared with 12 in 2017.

There were 14 crossing attempts in the first 10 months of the year and 57 in November and December alone.

Of the 71 attempts, 40 were successful and 31 failed.

Of the 504 migrants seeking to cross the English Channel in 2018, 276 managed to get to British waters and coasts and 228 were intercepted by the French authorities.

Most of the people are Iranian.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
HMS Mersey leaves Portsmouth Harbour (Steve Parsons/PA)

The increase in attempts to cross by boat is believed to be due to increased security at ferry ports and Eurotunnel.

Mr Castaner and Home Secretary Sajid Javid have spoken in recent days about measures to tackle the situation.

He said the UK had agreed to continue providing financial support and technology such as drones, radars and video surveillance.

The French minister said: “The perspective of Brexit does not alter the need for our two countries to strengthen our co-operation to bring in concrete and co-ordinated measures to fight illegal immigration.

“The British commitments show the willingness of the UK to continue participating in the security of our common border.”

We will do whatever it takes to protect the UK border and human life.

Thank you @RoyalNavyhttps://t.co/cKKhpNX7rB

— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) January 3, 2019

The deployment of HMS Mersey comes after Mr Javid announced two Border Force cutters were heading to the English Channel from the Mediterranean.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I can confirm that HMS Mersey will deploy to the Dover Straits to assist the UK Border Force and French authorities with their response to migrant crossings.

“The professionalism of the Royal Navy means the crew have been able to immediately divert from routine operations to help prevent migrants from making the dangerous journey across the Channel.”

Mr Javid said the use of HMS Mersey was an interim measure until the cutters arrive back in UK waters.