British and French Ministers Meet to Discuss Channel Migrants as Another 66 Attempt the Crossing

Britain’s Home Secretary and her French counterpart have agreed to intensify joint action to tackle small boat crossings in the Channel.

Priti Patel met French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner in Paris on August 30 to discuss what more can be done to deter migrants making the perilous journey across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Just one day after the meeting, sixty six men, women and children were found crossing the English Channel from France in small boats. There were 27 adults and eight children in one boat alone. Another, which was carrying eight men, reached the English coast. They were held by police before being passed to immigration officers. A third vessel, a dinghy carrying 13 men, was spotted by a French Navy helicopter and returned to France.

Meanwhile, the bodies of two migrants have been found and it is believed they were trying to swim to the U.K.

In July, Sarbast Mohammed Hama, 31, of no fixed U.K. address, pleaded guilty to assisting unlawful immigration at Lewes Crown Court in a case led by Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigations (CFI). A CFI investigation was started into Hama, who is an Iraqi national, after he was discovered on board a rigid-hulled inflatable boat in the early hours of 27 March 2019.

The vessel had been intercepted with 13 migrants on board close to the English coast by a Border Force cutter. Checks revealed Hama had been encountered previously on a different vessel off the coast of Kent, England on 25 December 2018 with 10 other Iraqi nationals.

Both France and the U.K. agree that tougher action is needed following the concerning rise in incidents over the summer months. More than 1,000 people have attempted to cross the English Channel from France in small boats this year, with at least 270 in August alone.

Under the shadow of Brexit, the two Home Secretaries also discussed how more resources to intercept and stop crossings along the French coast were crucial – and agreed to immediately draw-up an enhanced action plan to deliver this.

The ministers also agreed that UK teams will work with their French colleagues to increase intelligence gathering in the fight against the organized people-smuggling gangs responsible for driving illegal crossings.

The meeting follows the introduction of the joint action plan agreed by the U.K. and France in January. The plan includes over £6 million investment in new security equipment, increased CCTV coverage of beaches and ports and a mutual commitment to conduct returns of migrants under international and domestic laws.

Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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