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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

U.K. Gets a Clandestine Channel Threat Commander as Illegal Migration Attempts Surge

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel has appointed a Clandestine Channel Threat Commander – a new role leading the response to tackling illegal attempts to reach the U.K.

The number of migrants attempting to reach the U.K. by small boat across the English Channel continues to rise, with a daily record of 235 on August 6.

Together with the Home Secretary and Minister for Immigration Compliance, the new Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, Dan O’Mahoney, will have the primary responsibility of making the Channel route unviable for small boat crossings.

He will collaborate closely with the French to build on the joint work already underway, urgently exploring tougher action in France, including stronger enforcement measures and adopting interceptions at sea and the direct return of boats.

Last month a joint intelligence cell was established with France and joint investigations resulted in 11 more arrests.

O’Mahoney takes up the role having served since 2019 as Director of the U.K.’s Joint Maritime Security Centre (JMSC) where he was responsible for bringing together 15 agencies involved in Maritime Security to provide intelligence, data and situational awareness in U.K. waters and across the globe.

Prior to the JMSC, he has held senior positions in the National Crime Agency, and the Border Crime Command at Border Force Heathrow.

Prior to the Civil Service, O’Mahoney served in the Royal Marines, including operational deployments in Kosovo and Iraq. He is also a trustee of a military charity concerned with mental health support and resettlement into civilian life which has raised close to three quarters of a million pounds since 2013.

O’Mahoney’s appointment comes as the Home Office makes a request to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to deploy navy vessels to support the efforts to counter these illegal immigration attempts. As of August 10, the MoD has said only that it is considering how to most effectively assist.

The U.K and France are to hold further talks this week to explore ways to thwart illegal immigration by small boat across the channel. Measures may include biometric processing on arrival, and returning migrants mid-route, similar to the approach Australia takes with illegal migrants at sea. Australia has the support of its military for these interceptions and returns. 

Britain also wants to see France take a more active role in preventing these attempts to reach the U.K. coast. France is likely to be reluctant to help further unless the U.K. can pay for additional services, and with Britain leaving the European Union, joint border activities could be in jeopardy.

Kylie Bielby
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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