French plan steps up measures to tackle Channel crossings

Migration/Channel crossings – Communiqué issued by the Ministry of the Interior

Paris, 4 January 2019

Christophe Castaner, Minister of the Interior, welcomes the launch today by the prefects of the Nord zone de défense et de sécurité [defence and security zone] and Pas-de-Calais department of a zone/department plan of action to prevent and tackle Channel crossings by migrants.

In 2018, 71 attempted illegal crossings by boat were recorded (compared to 12 in 2017), 14 of which occurred in the first 10 months of the year, and 57 for November and December alone. Of these 71 attempts, 31 failed and 40 succeeded. In total, of the 504 migrants trying to cross the Channel in 2018, 276 managed to reach British waters and the coast and 228 were intercepted by the French authorities. The overwhelming majority of them were Iranian nationals. These increased attempts are explained in particular by the heightened security at ferry ports and Eurotunnel facilities.

These attempts to cross the Channel, often made on makeshift boats not adapted to the open sea, are carried out at risk to the migrants’ lives, given the particularly dangerous navigation conditions on the Channel and the volume of traffic there.

In view of this phenomenon, the zone/department plan of action launched today is based on five key areas:

- increased coordination between services and land resources under the authority of the Nord and Pas-de-Calais prefects (police and gendarmerie forces) and resources committed at sea under the authority of the Manche and North Sea maritime prefect (patrol ships and air assets of the Navy, maritime gendarmerie and customs) which have been increased and put on alert to ensure surveillance 27/7.

- increased surveillance and security at the ports of Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais (increased number of patrols, strengthening of port security facilities).

- increased surveillance and security at the beaches and places where boats could leave from, outside ports (increased patrols).

- establishment of awareness-raising and prevention measures for sellers of watersports equipment, boat rental businesses and marina and fishing port managements in order to increase their vigilance.

- stepping up the fight against people-smuggling rings (systematic application of judicial measures against individuals stopped at sea, mobilization of local and national border police units to ensure that people-smuggling rings are effectively dismantled).

For Christophe Castaner, “this plan must allow us to end these Channel crossings by migrants, which are not just illegal but also extremely dangerous. It’s in our interest, and that of the United Kingdom, for us to do everything in our power to not allow new networks to develop which would be likely to keep attracting illegal migrants to our coast”.

Christophe Castaner also welcomes the increased cooperation between France and the United Kingdom on the matter. During a telephone conversation between the Minister of the Interior and his British counterpart, Sajid Javid, on 30 December, the two ministers welcomed the effective cooperation enabled by the new Joint Information and Coordination Centre (CCIC) at Coquelles (Pas-de-Calais), in operation since 23 November. The CCIC enables information to be exchanged 24/7 between the British and French police services, particularly between the [French] border police and the British Border Force.

During their telephone conversation, the two ministers also agreed to step up Franco-British cooperation even further to prevent illegal Channel crossings, in particular with the drafting of a joint Franco-British action plan, which will add to the national measures taken on both sides of the Channel. Sajid Javid pledged, among other things, to continue, in line with the Sandhurst Treaty of 18 January 2018, the United Kingdom’s support for the joint management of France and the UK’s common border, particularly by covering the cost of deploying technical means for detecting and preventing people trying to leave illegally by sea (drones, radar, video surveillance). The ministers also urged greater coordination of maritime patrols.

The precise elements of this joint Franco-British action plan are currently being prepared by the French Ministry of the Interior and the British Home Office, with a view to the two ministers’ endorsement at a forthcoming visit by Christophe Castaner to London.

“The telephone conversation with my British colleague Sajid Javid was very constructive. The prospect of Brexit in no way changes the need for our two countries to increase our bilateral cooperation to implement concrete, coordinated measures to fight illegal immigration. The British commitments show the United Kingdom’s desire to go on contributing to the security of our common border”, said Christophe Castaner./.

Published on 06/01/2019

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