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What France plans to do to prevent migrants crossing to Britain by boat

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What France plans to do to prevent migrants crossing to Britain by boat
French workers repair "L'Epervier" on November 29, 2018, a boat that was stolen and damaged by migrants who tried to cross the English Channel, in Wissant, northern France. Photo: AFP
18:41 CET+01:00
The French government announced on Friday an "action plan" to counter the rising number of migrants crossing the English Channel by boat to get to the UK. The plan includes boosting security at beaches along the north coast.

The plan, aimed at preventing migrants crossing to the UK by boat, was launched by authorities in the country's two most northern departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais.

It comes after the UK's Conservative government has grown increasingly alarmed by the rise in the number of migrants attempting the dangerous sea crossing in recent weeks.

The increase, which French authorities had previously linked to Britain's impending withdrawal from the EU, was described as a "major incident" by the UK's Interior Minister Sajid Javid. He was roundly criticised by opponents who pointed out that the number of migrants successfully reaching the UK was in the low hundreds.

France's plan to counter the sea crossings include boosting surveillance and security at the ports of Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais, which include increasing the number of police patrols and improving security systems.

There will also be increased surveillance and security at beaches and other coastal points along the north coast which are known to be launching pads for the crossings.

French authorities will also put measures in place to make businesses along the coast more aware of migrants who might be preparing to attempt a crossing, including the owners of shops which sell boating equipment or tourism companies that hire out boats.

Managers of small harbours and fishing areas will also be asked to be more vigilant.

The plan will also include measures aimed at tackling the human traffickers who are making money out of the migrants prepared to risk their lives to make the highly perilous crossing.

These measures will include bringing suspects to justice in a speedier fashion.

Cooperation and coordination between authorities and police in the two northern departments as well as France's maritime officials will also be stepped up. 

Sea and air patrols by the French Navy, the Gendarmerie and the country's Border Patrol teams will all be increased.

France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said: "This plan should allow us to put an end to these crossings by migrants which are not only illegal but extremely dangerous.

"It is in our interest, and that of the UK, to make every effort not to allow new networks to develop that would attract undocumented migrants to the north coast."

These new measures will be in addition to a joint action plan announced on December 31 by the French and British government, according to a statement from the French interior ministry.

France's interior ministry also release details of the number of sea crossings made by migrants in recent months.

In 2018 there were 71 attempts to cross the Channel by boat, compared to 12 in 2017.

Some 14 of those attempts were made in The first 10 months and 57 in the last two months of the year.

Out of these 71 attempts 31 failed and 40 succeeded. In total out of the 504 migrants who attempted to reach the UK by boat in 2018, 276 successfully made it to the British coast while 228 were intercepted by French authorities and returned to France, the ministry said.

Data from the UN's refugee agency showed that 55,756 people crossed the Mediterranean to Spain in 2018.

It added that the vast majority of those attempting to make the crossing were Iranian migrants and blamed the rise in the number of boat crossings on the increased security at ferry ports and the Eurotunnel rail terminal.

The ministry said many of the attempted crossings were made in makeshift rafts, which put the lives of the migrants in grave danger.

France, Britain agree action plan on migrant Channel crossings

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