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Fact Sheet: Small Boats

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Border Force resources in the Channel

Border Force has a total fleet of five cutters and six Coastal Patrol Vessels (CPVs). Two CPVs and three cutters, HMC Vigilant, HMC Searcher and HMC Seeker, are currently deployed in the Channel working as part of an enhanced patrol rotation.

A fourth cutter, HMC Protector, has now returned from the Mediterranean and is available to support operations in UK waters.

Border Force has one cutter currently committed to supporting FRONTEX operations in the Aegean.

Border Force’s deployment of maritime capabilities is under constant review.

Joint Action Plan with France

Border Force operations to counter clandestine crossings of the Channel are coordinated with our French counterparts with whom we have a close working relationship.

The Home Secretary met with French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner in London on 24 January to agree a Joint Action Plan which includes:

• Over £6 million (€7m) investment in new security equipment

• Increased CCTV coverage of beaches and ports, air surveillance and shared intelligence; and

• A mutual commitment to conduct returns as quickly as possible under international and domestic laws

Just over half of the investment will come from £44.5 million (€50 million) already allocated under the Sandhurst Treaty, an agreement on UK-France co-operation signed by the Prime Minister and President Macron in January 2018.

An additional £3.2 million (€3.6 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, helping to support the UK and French border and maritime teams to detect and crack down on illegal activity.

Additional security cameras will be strategically placed at French ports and in areas where migrants may attempt to embark boats, and will feed live CCTV footage into the UK-France Coordination and Information Centre in Calais which is staffed by both British and French agencies.

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. Both governments have made clear that all criminals will be prosecuted.

UK-France Coordination and Information Centre

The UK-France Coordination and Information Centre opened in Calais in November 2018 as part of the ongoing co-operation between the UK and France to tackle criminality at the border. The centre sees Border Force working closely alongside Police Aux Frontieres as part of a 24/7 operation to:

• Assist with preventing illegal attempts to cross the shared border

• Exchange real-time intelligence between UK and French agencies to combat cross-border criminality

• Work on the prevention of threats to public order on cross-border infrastructure

• Provide analysis of cross-Channel traffic flows

Officers from Immigration Enforcement and the National Crime Agency (NCA) are also based in the new Co-ordination and Information Centre.

More information on the UK-France Coordination and Information Centre, which was part of the commitments agreed by the Prime Minister in the Sandhurst Treaty in January, can be found here.

The Immigration Minister and the French Interior Minister visited the Centre on Friday 25 January, more information can be found here.


The UK continues 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.

Since January, over ten people who entered the UK illegally on small boats have been returned to Europe.

Working with international partners

The Border Force Maritime Intelligence Bureau and Maritime Coordination Centre maintains a close dialogue with the French Customs operating both at sea and in the air, through the regional centre in Rouen and French law enforcement in Cherbourg.

Additionally the Border Force Maritime Intelligence Bureau are in daily contact with the Belgian and Dutch maritime intelligence centres to ensure information flows are maintained and communication systems manned 24/7.

Working within Government and with other agencies

Home Office Gold Command structure to oversee the cross channel migrant situation is now in place and reports weekly to the Home Secretary.

Working with the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Border Force Maritime have worked with commercial operators and Port Security Officers to ensure that sightings of potentially suspicious small vessels are reported immediately.

Additionally, Border Force have worked with HM Coastguard to increase safety broadcasts to all vessels in the Channel, encouraging them to look out for and report small vessels.

Border Force Maritime continues to use Project Kraken to encourage the public and industry to report suspicious activity and reduce the threat from organised crime and terrorism.

Regional General Maritime teams have been bolstered to deliver a 24/7 capability to receive and process migrants.

Tackling smuggling at source

The Home Office works closely with partners in the UK and overseas to strike people smuggling at source – identifying and dismantling the organised crime groups that facilitate illegal immigration.

Immigration Enforcement and Border Force are part of Project Invigor, the UK’s NCA-led Organised Immigration Crime Taskforce that targets the criminal networks behind people smuggling. It includes partners working in the UK and internationally.

Additionally, the UK works abroad to reduce factors that may push or force people to attempt such journeys - through creating jobs, tackling modern slavery, providing education and delivering life-saving humanitarian assistance in response to conflicts and natural disasters.

Action against criminals involved in people smuggling across the Channel

Since April 2018, Immigration Enforcement have disrupted 57 organised crime groups involved in people smuggling.

• On 7 January 2019, a man was arrested in Dungeness on suspicion of assisting unlawful immigration into the UK. He was later charged and pleaded not guilty in court. He was remanded in custody and his trial is scheduled for 1 July 2019 at Canterbury Crown Court.

• On 31 January 2019, two British men were jailed for a total of nine years for attempting to smuggle four people, including a six year old child, into the UK at Ramsgate Marina.

• On 21 November 2018, two men were jailed for eight years each for smuggling people into the UK in small boats.

• In September 2018, seven members of an organised crime group who tried to use small boats and a jet ski to smuggle people into the UK were jailed for a combined total of 48 years and three months.

• In February 2018, two people smugglers were jailed for a combined total of nine years.

Facts and statistics

Through our efforts, we have managed to reduce the number of individuals attempting the crossing from around 250 in December to around 90 in January.

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