A migrant rescue in the English Channel on September 2, 2020 | Photo: Twitter @premarmanche
A migrant rescue in the English Channel on September 2, 2020 | Photo: Twitter @premarmanche

More and more migrants are attempting to cross the English Channel from France to the United Kingdom, despite the UK's increasingly harsh policies and joint efforts to curb migration.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron had an extensive telephone discussion earlier this week, ahead of the G7 summit starting in Cornwall on Friday. One of the items on their agenda: Irregular Channel crossings. This has been a persistently thorny subject for the two countries.

The prime minister "noted the bilateral cooperation underway to fight against small boat crossings in the Channel," but he also said there was a "need to redouble efforts to dissuade migrants from attempting this perilous journey, following the worrying increase in incidents in recent weeks," according to a statement published by Downing Street.

Also read: Numbers of migrants crossing English Channel continue to rise

Drones and radars used to detect crossings

In spite of joint efforts launched by France and the United Kingdom over the past few months to curb the number of Channel crossings, the number of migrants attempting to reach the UK has increased recently.

Last November, a new agreement to curb crossings was signed between Paris and London. British Home Secretary Priti Patel announced in late November that the number of French patrols along the coast would be doubled, starting December 1, and drones and radars would be deployed to detect people attempting to cross the Channel.

The United Kingdom is contributing up to €31.4 million to France's efforts to prevent irregular crossings, according to the French interior ministry. Patel said she was pleased when she reached an agreement with French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin. They were united by "a common goal," Patel said, to "make crossing the Channel impossible."

Fishing nets to stop migrant boats

Last August, Patel appointed former Royal Marine Dan O'Mahoney as the Clandestine Channel Threat Commander – a new role leading the UK’s response to tackling illegal attempts to reach the the country.

Together with the Home Secretary and Minister for Immigration Compliance, O’Mahoney has the primary responsibility of making the Channel route unviable for small boat crossings.

His job is "to collaborate closely with the French to build on the joint work already underway, urgently exploring tougher action in France, including stronger enforcement measures and adopting interceptions at sea and the direct return of boats," according to the British government press office.

"Dan’s appointment is vital to cutting this route by bringing together all operational partners in the UK and in France. This is a complex problem but across government we are working to address many of these long-standing issues," said Patel.

O'Mahoney revealed one of the methods he was planning to use to carry out his mission in an interview with British newspaper Sunday Telegraph in October: using fishing nets to prevent migrant boats from reaching the coast of Dover, by blocking the propellers and thus immobilizing the boats.

The installation of barricades in certain areas of the Channel or the possibility of linking small boats together to form a barrier are other possibilities mentioned by the British government, which is trying to prevent crossings by all means.

Also read: Channel: Four migrants try to reach England with oars

Migrant crossings increased

So far, these measures do not seem to be working. From January 1 to May 31, the Home Office recorded nearly 3,600 arrivals in the UK. As a result of the good weather over the past few weeks, Channel crossings have been breaking records.

An estimated 700 migrants reached the UK by crossing the Channel in just four days between Friday, May 28 and Tuesday, June 1. This Monday alone, 93 migrants landed on the British coast.


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