Channel migrants: No easy answers to issue, says Javid

Sajid Javid Image copyright PA

The issue of increasing numbers of migrants trying to cross the Channel in small boats to reach the UK has “no easy answers”, the Home Secretary says.

Sajid Javid is to chair talks in London later after agreeing a joint action plan with the French interior minister.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: “The reasons behind the increased crossings are complicated and in many cases outside of our control.”

Since November, more than 220 people have attempted the journey.

Mr Javid has come under growing pressure to act, and cut short a family holiday in South Africa to address the issue.

Following a call with his French counterpart, Christophe Castaner, the pair agreed an “enhanced action plan” to be put in place in the coming week.

It includes increasing joint patrols and surveillance, disrupting organised trafficking gangs and raising awareness among migrants of the dangers of a Channel crossing.

The Home Office did not give information on how this would be done.

Some MPs – including Conservative backbenchers – have criticised a lack of detail, as well as calling for more Border Force patrol boats to be deployed.

Mr Javid said the complex factors behind the rise in numbers of people attempting the Channel crossing included instability in the Middle East, organised crime and tighter security at Calais.

He wrote: “Unfortunately, this means that there are no easy answers. So our response is focused both here in the UK and abroad.”

He will chair a meeting with the Border Force, the National Crime Agency (NCA), Whitehall officials and other agencies on Monday morning to discuss what further action can be taken.

He added: “While we have obligations to genuine asylum seekers… we will not stand by and allow reckless criminals to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our global society.”

Image copyright PA

Currently, only one of the Border Force’s fleet of five cutters – specialist boats which the force describes as being capable of rescuing several migrant boats at the same time – is currently operational in the Dover Strait.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke has repeated calls for Border Force cutters to be called back from search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean to patrol the Channel.

The Home Office has not said whether any of the other four cutters would return.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the armed forces were ready to offer help if needed.

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Media captionA migrant rescue off the coast of Dover in November 2018

Six more Iranian men were found on a beach near Dover on Sunday morning.

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