Number of police patrolling French beaches to double in bid to deter illegal migrants

An “enhanced agreement” reached between the UK and France will strengthen operations to stop people smuggling.The doubling of the number of gendarmes patrolling a 90-mile stretch of coastline from Tuesday is the latest attempt to stop people making the dangerous crossing in small boats. For operational reasons, the number of officers has not been disclosed. The agreement between Home Secretary Priti Patel and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin will also see the roll-out of surveillance technology.

It is hoped the use of drones, radar equipment, optronic binoculars and fixed cameras will mean officers are in the right place at the right time.

The UK and France have also agreed on steps to provide appropriate accommodation for migrants in France, so they do not fall prey to criminal gangs.

There will also be increased border security at ports in northern and western France in a bid to prevent smuggling and stop people using freight traffic.

The Home Secretary said: “This agreement is a significant moment for our two countries, stepping up our joint action to tackle illegal migration. Thanks to more police patrols on French beaches and enhanced intelligence-sharing between our security and law enforcement agencies, we are already seeing fewer migrants leaving French beaches. The actions we have agreed goes further, doubling the number of officers on the ground in France, increasing surveillance and introducing new cutting-edge technology, representing a further step forward in our mission to make channel crossings completely unviable.”

Ms Patel is also to introduce a new “firm but fair” asylum system with legislation in 2021.

The Home Office reports that the proportion of crossings intercepted and stopped has gone up from 41 per cent last year to 60 per cent in recent weeks.

British and French law enforcement agencies work closely together through the Joint Intelligence Cell. Since its launch in July, it is credited with helping secure around 140 arrests and stopping about 1,100 crossings.

This year, Immigration Enforcement has convicted 57 individuals for people smuggling with sentences totalling more than 138 years. Forty-six people have been convicted of offences linked to small boat crossings, with total sentences at more than 26 years.

More than 8,000 people have reached the UK using small boats this year. Earlier this year, Dan O’Mahoney – formerly chief of the UK’s Joint Maritime Security Centre – was appointed Clandestine Channel Threat Commander in an attempt to stem the tide of illegal crossings.