France, UK agree action plan on migrant Channel crossings
The UK and France agreed to boost bilateral cooperation over a spike in migrants trying to cross the Channel, the UK's Home Office said on Sunday.
The two countries will increase surveillance patrols and focus on measures to dismantle trafficking gangs and improve awareness about the dangers of sea crossings in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes in the coming weeks, authorities said.
"The UK and France will build on our joint efforts to deter illegal migration - protecting our borders and human life," said Britain's Home Office Minister Sajid Javid, after speaking on the phone with French counterpart Christophe Castaner.
Attempts to cross the Channel have been increasing since October, with authorities on both sides struggling to stop them.
Javid, who has previously said the rise is being treated as a "major incident", has faced criticism from the opposition and from within his own party for responding too slowly.
"More than 200 migrants have arrived on the Kent coast in small craft in the past two months. The scale of the problem is unprecedented," Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover on the southeast coast of England, told the Daily Mail.
A particular increase in arrivals has been recorded over the Christmas period, with British authorities finding 43 people in English waters on Christmas Day and December 26.
On Thursday, British border officials found 23 Iranians in three locations in Kent on England's southeast coast, hours after French maritime authorities intercepted 11 migrants in a small boat near Sangatte.
And on Sunday, authorities intercepted six Iranians near Kingsdown beach in Dover.
The Channel has seen a recent spike in migrants attempting the trip from France to England in dinghies or other small boats.
Calais, a port city on one end of a Channel tunnel that connects France and England by train, long has been a magnet for migrants fleeing conflict or poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
So far this year French maritime officials have launched 23 operations either to rescue migrants at sea or to stop groups about to set sail.
On land, meanwhile, French police continue to routinely clear migrant camps around Calais, two years after dismantling the squalid "Jungle" settlement which was home to over 10,000 people at one point, as people waited to try to hop trucks taking rail ferries or trains to England.
In October, French authorities cleared 1,800 people, most of them Iraqi Kurds, from a makeshift camp near the port of Dunkirk.
Agencies contributed to this report.
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