Author: CONNOR BOYD FOR MAILONLINE
Britain will ramp up security at its ports using night-vision goggles, drones and number plate recognition cameras to tackle the migrant crisis as part of a £6million deal with France.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid and French interior minister Christophe Castaner signed off on the action plan today which commits both countries to sending migrants who illegally cross the Channel back to France.
The agreement was penned following talks at Westminster, one day after the first handful of migrants were returned as the plan came into immediate force.
The Home Office said a group of fewer than five migrants who crossed the Channel last month were returned to France yesterday.
Both ministers committed to tackling the issue after a sharp rise in the number of migrants attempting to cross the ‘dangerous shipping lane’ in small boats.
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 £6m 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.
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.
Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said: ‘Everyone knows that the best deterrent is for traffickers to know that migrants will never succeed in entering the UK.
‘This action plan is an encouraging step forward.
‘Returning migrants to France will clearly have a powerful deterrent effect.
‘And the plan to disrupt traffickers on departure beaches is also essential.
‘Yet the 24/7 aerial surveillance we have been calling for is also vital, and we need to know more about these plans, as well as when the cutters will return from the Med to make our borders more secure.’