France and UK to establish intelligence unit to curb migrant smuggling across Channel

France and UK to establish intelligence unit to curb migrant smuggling across Channel
France and UK to establish intelligence unit to curb migrant smuggling across Channel

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Britain and France have agreed to establish a research unit to allow them to share intelligence to crack down on people who illegally smuggle migrants across the English Channel.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel with French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Sunday to discuss how the both governments curb crossings illegally-facilitated by small boats.

It was the newly appointed French Interior Minister’s first meeting with a foreign counterpart. The two ministers reiterated their determination to stop the crossings and bring criminal gangs behind them to justice.

The new research unit will collate, centralise and analyse operational intelligence to prevent crossings from taking place and to foil criminal gangs behind them.

It will be staffed by French and UK officers and will feed into the already established teams working to end the crossings.

“I have been in France today seeing first-hand the significant work undertaken on that side of the Channel to address the unacceptably high levels of small boats, alongside the efforts of Border Force and the National Crime Agency in the UK,” Ms Patel said.

“But despite all of the action taken by law enforcement to date - intercepting the boats, making arrests, returning people back to France and putting the criminals responsible behind bars - the numbers continue to increase,” she added.

“This simply cannot be allowed to go on. Today, I have signed an agreement with the French to create a joint intelligence cell which will crack down on the gangs behind this vile people-smuggling operation and impressed on my French counterpart the need to stop these illegal crossings for the benefit of both our countries. This is the start of a new operational approach with the newly appointed French Interior Minister.”

Ms Patel and Mr Darmanin reaffirmed their shared commitment to returning boats in the Channel to France, rather than allowing them to reach the UK. The pair said that migrants should not risk their lives to reach the UK, given France is a “safe country” with a well-run asylum system.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, border officials continue to see migrants regularly arrive on the British coast. On June 22, officials intercepted 28 migrants off the coast of Dover, south-east England. The arrivals were from Syria, Kuwait, Iraq, Ethiopia and Sudan.

In May Ms Patel spoke with former French interior minister Christophe Castaner. The two ministers agreed to increase deployment of forces, with adequate equipment, on the French coast, with UK financial support.

In 2019 UK immigration enforcement made 418 arrests, leading to 203 convictions for a total of 437 years. Of these 259 arrests and 101 convictions were for people smuggling.

Updated: July 12, 2020 10:21 PM

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