Today (Monday December 31) the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, wrote in The Telegraph regarding the activity of migrants attempting to cross the Channel.
The Home Secretary has taken action, declaring the situation as a major incident and has spoken with his French counterpart Christophe Castaner about joint working between the two countries.
The full op-ed can be found below.
Home Secretary, Sajid Javid
Over the past week, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of migrants attempting to cross the Channel in small boats.
As Home Secretary, this rise has been deeply concerning.
The English Channel contains some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, the weather conditions are often treacherous and the inflatable boats being used are woefully ill-equipped to make such a dangerous journey.
The migrants who choose to make the journey are putting their lives in grave danger.
It is for these reasons that I have declared the situation a major incident and have stepped up the UK’s response.
Yesterday I held an important call with my French counterpart Christophe Castaner to discuss how we can increase our joint work to address the issue.
We both agreed to ramp-up cooperation and the French will be launching an enhanced action plan this week which will focus on increasing the already strong collaborative measures around prevention, monitoring and patrols, with operations being run out of the newly opened UK-France Coordination and Information Centre in Coquelles. We also agreed to meet in person in January to assess the situation and further extend our joint working.
This morning, I will be chairing a meeting with Border Force, the NCA, Whitehall officials and other agencies to discuss additional action that can be taken.
The reasons behind the increased crossings are complicated, and in many cases – outside of our control.
First, instability in regions such as the Middle East and North Africa are driving people out of their homes in search of better lives in Europe. They want to provide safety and security to their families as well as greater prosperity and opportunities. The majority of them don’t end up in the UK but in other parts of Europe.
Organised crime gangs are targeting and profiteering from these vulnerable and often desperate people who want to come to the UK and changing visa routes on the continent have allowed migrants from countries such as Iran easier access to Europe.
Strengthened security at the juxtaposed controls between the UK and France has also meant it is increasingly difficult for stowaways to illegally enter the UK, leading to more reckless attempts by boat.
Unfortunately, this means that there are no easy answers. So our response is focused both here in the UK and abroad.
My department the Home Office is continuing to work with a range of partners to tackle this dangerous form of migration and it is an operational priority of the National Crime Agency.
We are also at the forefront of a broader international effort.
The UK and France have a mutual commitment to tackle criminality at our shared border and we have been working closely for years.
Heavy UK investment in security measures in northern France and a shared approach to intelligence and operational activity led to the clearance of the Calais camps and a return to order in the area back in 2015.
The French response to recent events has been swift and thorough.
Thanks to our ongoing cooperation – sharing intelligence and resources – the French have made dozens of arrests and disrupted many attempts to embark boats bound for the UK.
I am proud of our collaborative efforts but there is always more that can be done which is why I welcome my French counterpart’s pledge to step up our ongoing collaboration to tackle this.
Much of our joint working has been facilitated by the Sandhurst Treaty which was signed by the Prime Minister and President Macron at the beginning of the year. Yesterday, Mr Castener and I reiterated our commitment to it.
The agreement paved the way for the opening of the new UK-France Coordination and Information Centre in November and sees Border Force working alongside Police Aux Frontieres as part of a 24/7 operation to help prevent illegal border crossings and prosecute offenders.
As a result, a number arrests have been made, including three suspected facilitators who were arrested and charged in France just before Christmas and will face trial in the New Year. Prior to that, our French colleagues dismantled an entire group of organised criminals who had been trafficking people through France. These operational successes are significant.
While our immediate response to these crossings is vital – the UK is working upstream in the home countries of would be migrants, aiming to reduce factors which force migrants to make these dangerous journeys.
For example, we’re creating jobs, tackling modern slavery, providing education and delivering life-saving humanitarian assistance in response to conflicts and natural disasters. Without that essential work, migrants will always want to journey to the UK and elsewhere in search of a better life.
These events are not something that I, as Home Secretary, will accept. Protecting the UK border and safeguarding lives is one of the Home Office’s most important priorities.
While we have obligations to genuine asylum seekers which we will uphold, we will not standby and allow reckless criminals to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our global society.