The French Minister of the Interior’s visit to London on Friday 29 August was a valuable opportunity to discuss some of the shared challenges faced by France and the United Kingdom.
Among those challenges, we discussed pressures on our borders – and across the EU – from growing numbers of would-be illegal migrants.
The situation in Calais and the Channel ports has been an issue for both our countries for many years and remains so; we are determined to work together to address it. The increase in migrant numbers seen in Calais and its regions since the spring of 2014 has brought very difficult economic, social and public order problems. We have a duty to strengthen our efforts and find new solutions to alleviate the impact of these migrant numbers on the Calais population and its economy, and to prevent illegal immigration.
We have already bolstered security in Calais, upgraded technology and equipment, and are investing further together in strengthening port infrastructure. We agreed that this work will continue. We also agreed to explore ways to ensure that those genuinely in need of protection or who are victims of trafficking are given the necessary support.
Our countries continue to target the organised crime gangs behind smuggling and people trafficking, increasing joint intelligence work and co-ordination between law enforcement agencies. Action this year between the UK and France, together with police in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, has seen twenty organised gangs broken up and assets worth £1.4 million (€1.8 million) seized. We will reinforce this work.
We will be taking action in Calais, and upstream, to dispel the myths that attract people in the first place and send an unequivocal message that anyone caught attempting a clandestine crossing will be subject to a strict process following all the relevant national and EU immigration and asylum procedures. Jointly-funded returns flights to key countries have started and will be stepped up.
We will also continue to work with our European partners to:
strengthen the EU’s external borders, recognising the important role played by Frontex in supporting member states and the need to develop alternatives to the Mare Nostrum initiative in the Mediterranean; on that basis, we welcome French proposals this week for the conclusion of Mare Nostrum and the strengthening of Frontex operations closer to the EU’s Mediterranean borders;
enhance our co-operation with countries of origin and transit, welcoming Italian Presidency plans for a Horn of Africa initiative building on efforts under the EU’s Global Approach to Migration;
ensure an effective response when would-be migrants first come ashore, where it is essential that all EU countries meet the requirements for identifying and fingerprinting illegal migrants;
tackle the criminal gangs involved in people smuggling; and
collectively explore both how to deliver more effective asylum processing and return failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants.
We recognised the need to pursue this work bilaterally and with EU partners as a matter of urgency.
We also discussed links between the unfolding crisis in Syria and Iraq and the need to continue to work collaboratively in addressing the threat posed by foreign fighters.
We are confident that the enduring strength of our relationship and our fundamental shared interest in finding solutions to all of these challenges are the best foundation for success./.
¹Source of English text: UK Home Office.