CALAIS, France, Feb 1 (AFP) – British and French immigration officers were Sunday beginning work at ports in each others’ countries in an attempt to curb illegal immigration, a move described by London as “moving our borders across the (English) Channel”.
The Anglo-French deal sees British officials stationed at Calais and Dunkirk to check the papers of passengers heading into Britain, Britain’s Home Office said in a statement.
In exchange, French officials have begun work at the southern English port of Dover to check passengers heading into France.
Passengers would be refused permission to set off on their journeys if they did not have proper documents, the Home Office said.
“With the measures we are announcing today, we are effectively moving our borders across the Channel – UK immigration officers will be able to stop would-be illegal immigrants even before they set off for the UK,” Home Office minister Beverley Hughes said.
“By bringing in a radical package of measures to tackle abuse of the asylum system, and working closely with our European partners to improve the security of our borders, we have cut asylum claims by half,” she added.
An initial group of around 20 British officials will eventually be boosted to 300 distributed around French ports, while the 25 French officials at Dover will double in number.
The arrangement was made about a year ago as British and French ministers discussed how to clamp down on border violations following the closure of a Red Cross immigrant camp at Sangatte, near Calais.
Other measures also taken include better security at the Channel Tunnel and high-tech vehicle scanning systems at ferry ports to check for hidden passengers, the statement said.
Illegal immigration into Britain is a hot political topic, with some tabloid newspapers running regular – and at times alarmist – stories about the extent of the problem.
The government of Prime Minister Tony Blair has been notably keen to avoid being labelled soft over the issue by its political opponents, and has introduced a series of measures to clamp down on illegal entry.
Subject: France news