UK and France '˜action plan' to deal with migrants crossing Channel

The UK and France have agreed to step up action to deal with migrants making the perilous attempt to cross the English Channel in small boats.

These suspected illegal immigrants were pictured on a beach in Kent on Sunday as the Channel migrant crisis deepened
These suspected illegal immigrants were pictured on a beach in Kent on Sunday as the Channel migrant crisis deepened

An “enhanced action plan” to be launched this week will include increased joint patrols and surveillance, disruption of organised trafficking gangs and efforts to raise awareness among migrants of the dangers of a Channel crossing.

The plan was agreed in a phone call between Sajid Javid and his French counterpart Christophe Castaner after the Home Secretary cut short a family Christmas break to return to the UK and deal with the problem.

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Mr Javid has come under growing pressure to act, with Labour accusing him of being “slow to respond” and one Conservative MP telling him to “get a grip”.

In the latest in a sequence of Channel crossings, six Iranian men were found on a Kent beach early yesterday having arrived from France in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat.

The group were handed over to immigration authorities after being spotted in Kingsdown near Deal in Kent.

In his call, Mr Javid assured the French Interior Minister of the UK’s commitment to supporting his country’s efforts to tackle the problem, including by supplying personnel and equipment.

The two men agreed on the need to “ramp up” co-operation and will meet face-to-face in January to assess whether further action is required, the Home Office said.

Mr Javid will chair a meeting today to discuss further action with senior officials from Government departments and agencies, including Border Force and the National Crime Agency.

Mr Castaner offered reassurances over France’s efforts to break up people-smuggling gangs, pointing to the dismantling on 19 December of an entire organised crime group that had been trafficking migrants through the country.

Thanking the French minister for his “partnership”, Mr Javid said: “The UK and France will build on our joint efforts to deter illegal migration - protecting our borders and human life.”

The Home Office said increased activity would be led from the UK-France Co-ordination Centre at Coquelles, near Calais.

Mr Javid declared a “major incident” on Friday after dozens of migrants in small boats arrived on the Kent coast over the Christmas period.

He promised to do more to tackle the issue, saying it is of “grave concern” that people are attempting the perilous crossing.