UK to help fund French fight against Channel crossings

London (AFP) –


Britain on Thursday promised to pay for the deployment of new surveillance equipment in France to fight illegal cross-Channel migration.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner met his British counterpart Sajid Javid in London to hone police efforts to stamp out a surge in dangerous attempts by small boats to reach the United Kingdom.

An action plan signed by Castaner and Javid includes broader intelligence sharing and the installation of CCTV cameras that can offer live feeds from ports and "areas where migrants may attempt to embark boats" in France.

Britain will spend 7 million euros ($7.9 million) to cover the installation costs and also purchase new night goggles and cameras to capture licence plates and automatically transmit them to police.

Around half this amount had already been pledged in a similar agreement signed in January 2018.

"It is vital we continue to work closely with our French partners to stop vulnerable migrants making these treacherous crossings and tackle the people smugglers who are putting their lives in danger," Javid said.

Castaner said the new action plan "once again shows the UK?s commitment to managing our shared border along with us".

A total of 504 people -- the vast majority in the last two months -- attempted to cross the Channel to Britain last year.

French interior ministry figures show 276 people successfully reaching British waters.

There were only 13 known attempts in 2017.

London in December dispatched a navy ship to help existing coastguard boats watch over the 21 miles (33 kilometres) of sea that separate France and Britain at its narrowest point.

France also responded by announcing broader surveillance measures in its own "action plan" in early January.

The crossings have received broad media attention in Britain and put pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government to respond.

Control over borders and migration was an emotive issue that helped the Brexit-backing camp win the 2016 referendum on leaving the EU.

But the number of Channel crossings was just a tiny fraction of the 55,756 successful attempts made across Mediterranean to Spain that were recorded by the UN's refugee agency in 2018.