Night vision: France to spend €11m on new tech to stop migrant Channel crossings

The French government has announced an €11 million package of new equipment - including night-vision equipment and thermal cameras - as it steps up operations against people smugglers who facilitate illegal crossings to the UK.

Night vision: France to spend €11m on new tech to stop migrant Channel crossings
Officers patrol a beach in northern France. Photo: Marce Sanye/AFP

After a meeting between French interior minister Gérald Darmanin and  his British counterpart Priti Patel, France has announced the deployment of extra measures along its northern coast, where small boats set off to make the perilous crossing to the UK.

The British government promised France an extra €62 million to fund the ongoing security operations, although the two governments appear to be at odds over how much of the money has actually been paid.

But the Interior Ministry has now announced that equipment and vehicles worth €11m have been acquired within this agreement, and will lead to extra patrols along the 130km stretch of coastline.

The ministry announced: “More than 100 mobile vehicles are being delivered to the field for patrols, with equipment adapted to the specific nature of the terrain, such as quad bikes, 4×4s, Zodiac-type boats and vehicles equipped with sophisticated surveillance and detection equipment.

“Twenty vehicles have already been delivered and are used by the forces on a daily basis, the others will arrive progressively in December and during 2022.

“In addition, there will be modern, high-performance night vision equipment, thermal cameras, 300 lamps, 160 tactical lighting projectors, interception and communication means, as well as clothing effects. This equipment will also be delivered during 2022 and will be made available to the forces gradually, as soon as it is received.”

Overall, France intercepts between 50 and 60 percent of small boats that attempt the clandestine crossing, with figures from August 2021 showing that 10,522 people were detained in France, while another 12,256 made it to the UK and were detained there.

The crossing is highly dangerous and every year people die while making the attempt.

READ ALSO What is France doing to stop migrants crossing the Channel

Member comments

  1. Surely if the purchase of rubber dinghies and outboard motors was controlled, that would deny the smugglers the means of transport. Licences, Identity checks and so on would control who purchases these (repeatedly…), and record where they are to be kept (used…). And then if they are no longer at that that location – questions… Simples. And a lot cheaper than 11 million Euros!!!
    Selling the dinghies, life-jackets and motors that pile up in England would help with the costs of the attempts (ineffective?) at controlling the flow (flood?).

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Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

The final composition of the new French government was announced on Friday. A new investigation suggests that historic rape allegations against a newly appointed minister were ignored.

Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

It didn’t take long for scandal to hit the France’s new government.

An investigation by Mediapart published the day after the final list of ministerial positions was announced revealed that two women have accused one of the appointees of rape. 

READ MORE Who’s who in France’s new government?

Damien Abad, the new Solidarity Minister denies the allegations and a police investigation into one allegation was dropped in 2017. But another could be about to open. 

Who is Damien Abad? 

Damien Abad is a 42-year-old son of a miner from Nimes in southern France who became the first handicapped MP to be elected in 2012. He has arthrogryposis, a rare condition that affects the joints.

Prior to his appointment as the Minister for Solidarity, Autonomy and Disabled People, he was the leader of the France’s right-wing Republicans party in the Assemblée nationale

What are the allegations? 

Two alleged victims, who didn’t know each other, told Mediapart that Abad raped them on separate occasions in 2010 and 2011.

The first woman described meeting Abad for dinner after having met him weeks earlier at a wedding. She said she blacked out after one glass of champagne and woke up in her underwear in a hotel bed with Abad the next morning fearing she had been drugged. 

A second woman who lodged a formal charge against Abad in 2017 said that he harassed her by text message for years. She eventually agreed to meet with him one evening. After initially consenting, she told him to stop – but her plea fell on deaf ears as Abad raped her. 

What does Abad have to say? 

The new minister denies the accusations.

“It is physically impossible for me to commit the acts described,” he told Mediapart – in reference to his disability. 

He admitted to sending “sometimes intimate” messages, but said he had “obviously never drugged anyone”. 

“I was able to have adventures, I stand by my claim that they were always consensual.”

Is he under investigation? 

The second alleged victim made a formal allegation against Abad in 2017. 

A subsequent investigation was dropped later that year after a “lack of sufficient evidence was gathered”.

Mediapart report that Abad’s entourage were not questioned by police and that the MP told investigators that he had no memory of the alleged crime. 

The first alleged victim flagged the abuse to the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics – an unofficial watchdog monitoring elected bodies – earlier this month. 

The Observatory has since brought the case to the state prosecutor, but it is unclear if another investigation will be launched.  

Who knew? 

The tone deaf appointment of Gérald Darmanin as Interior Minister in 2020 was controversial because at the time he was under investigation for rape. His nomination was met with street protests in Paris and elsewhere. Feminists accused (and continue to accuse) Emmanuel Macron of not taking sexual violence seriously. 

The investigation into Darmanin’s alleged crime has since been dropped.

Some will question whether the naming of Abad shows that lessons have not been learned. 

“Once again a minister  in the government of Emmanuel Macron accused of rape,” said Caroline De Haas, the founder of the #NousToutes feminist movement. 

The Observatory sent a message warning senior party figures in the Republicans and LREM about the allegations on Monday – prior to Abad’s nomination. 

France’s new Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne denied having any knowledge of the warning. 

“I am going to be very clear on all these questions of harassment and sexual violence, there will be no impunity,” she said during a visit to Calvados. 

“If there are new elements, if the courts are summoned, we will accept the consequences.” 

READ MORE Who is Élisabeth Borne, France’s new PM?

The Observatory meanwhile claims it has been ignored. 

“Despite our alerts, Damien Abad who is accused of rape has been named in government. Thoughts and support to the victims,” it tweeted