The number of officers patrolling French beaches will double as a result of a new agreement reached by the British Home Secretary Priti Patel and her French counterpart to tackle migrant activity in the Channel.
Patel and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin reaffirmed their commitment to make this route unviable. They signed an enhanced agreement which builds on the joint cooperation that has already seen the proportion of crossings intercepted and prevented rise from 41% in 2019 to 60% in recent weeks.
This increase in officer numbers represents a major uplift in capability that will significantly enhance law enforcement operations against illegal immigration, including doubling the number of gendarmes, French police, patrolling the beaches from December 1. This will bolster the patrolling of the 150-kilometer stretch of coastline regularly targeted by people-smuggling networks and enable quicker response rates to suspicious activity, stopping migrants leaving French beaches in the first place and preventing more dangerous and unnecessary crossings.
In addition to increased officer numbers, the Home Secretary and Interior Minister also agreed an enhanced package of cutting edge surveillance technology – including drones, radar equipment, optronic binoculars and fixed cameras. The specialist equipment will allow the French to be more efficient in searching and clearing areas faster and help ensure officers are deployed in the right place at the right time, as a result increasing the number of migrants and facilitators detected and prevented from entering the water.
“Thanks to more police patrols on French beaches and enhanced intelligence sharing between our security and law enforcement agencies, we are already seeing fewer migrants leaving French beaches,” said Patel on November 28. “The actions we have agreed jointly today go further, doubling the number of police officers on the ground in France, increasing surveillance and introducing new cutting edge technology, representing a further step forward in our shared mission to make channel crossings completely unviable.
“On top of these new operational plans, we will introduce a new asylum system that is firm and fair, and I will bring forward new legislation next year to deliver on that commitment.”
This focus on tackling criminal smuggling networks builds on collaboration between the U.K. and French law enforcement agencies which has already seen the creation of a new Joint Intelligence Cell (JIC). Since it opened in July, the JIC has helped secure around 140 arrests and prevent approximately 1,100 crossings.
In addition, this year Immigration Enforcement have convicted 57 individuals for people smuggling, including those convicted of facilitating small boat Channel crossings, resulting in sentencing of over 138 years. A further 46 people have been convicted of offenses related to the small boat crossings. The total sentencing for small boats related convictions is over 26 years.
The package agreed at the meeting on November 28 also includes steps to support migrants into appropriate accommodation in France in order to take them out of the hands of criminal gangs. There will also be additional measures to increase border security at ports in northern and western France to reduce opportunities for smuggling and ensure that the illegal migration threat shifting towards freight traffic is avoided.
The new plan will come into force in the coming days. It will be subject to regular evaluation by the U.K.’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney and his counterpart in France.