UK police head to France to counter migrant traffickers

19th August 2015, Comments 0 comments

British police officers will be deployed to the French port of Calais to combat gangs smuggling migrants across the Channel, the Home Office said Thursday.

The officers will work alongside their French counterparts in a "Command and Control Centre", Britain's interior ministry said ahead of Home Secretary Theresa May's visit to Calais later Thursday.

She will be the first British government minister to go to the French ferry port since the migrant crisis escalated earlier this year.

The new centre "will find and disrupt organised criminals who attempt to smuggle migrants illegally into northern France and across the Channel by ensuring intelligence and enforcement work is more joined up and collaborative", the Home Office said.

To be led by one British and one French senior commander, the unit is among the measures to be agreed in a deal due to be signed in Calais by May and her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve to alleviate the situation in the town.

Some 3,000 people from Africa, the Middle East and Asia are camped in Calais in slum-like conditions, attempting to get to Britain by any means necessary.

Eurotunnel said earlier this week that the number of migrants trying to break into the Channel Tunnel undersea rail link in Calais had fallen to around 150 a night, down from a high of 2,000 at the end of July.

While France and Britain have tried to present a united front in tackling the crisis, the issue has strained ties between the two.

The deal includes extra French policing units, additional freight searches, and making the railhead in Calais more secure through fencing, security cameras, flood lighting and infrared detection technology.

Keith Vaz, who chairs a parliamentary body scrutinising the work of May's ministry, welcomed the agreement but warned there was already evidence of greater "illegal activity" at other Channel ports in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

"We must be aware of the dangers of the domino principle. Closing off one route will only mean the problem moves to another port," he said.

"We need agreements with countries across the north coast to stop this situation developing before we see Calais-like crises spring up at ports across the continent."

© 2015 AFP

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