Channel crossing: Border force patrols after deaths
The European Border and Coast Guard agency Frontex will monitor human trafficking across the English Channel from Wednesday. One of its aircraft will regularly fly over the coasts of France, Belgium and the Netherlands to track down smugglers.
Former MEP Ben Habib has previously highlighted Frontex, which requires employees to wear EU-branded uniforms, has all the hallmarks of an “EU military”.
It follows the deaths of 27 people – 17 men, seven women and three children – who drowned while attempting to travel from France to the UK via the Channel last week.
In a crisis meeting on Sunday, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium agreed to work together to combat a growing threat from migrant smuggling gangs in Calais, northern France, which has hosted thousands of asylum seekers for decades. .
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said: “We must stop the loss of life and prevent the chaos from reaching our outer borders.”
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The EU’s Frontex agency strictly monitors the English Channel to combat illegal migration
She wrote in a blog post: “The EU must tackle migrant trafficking together.
“It is not an issue only for some countries.
“Breaking up the organized criminal trafficking network can only be done with cooperation.
“Of course we have to discuss a solution with the UK as well.”
But UK Home Secretary Priti Patel was not up for such discussions as her invitation to a meeting with EU interior ministers was withdrawn in response to an unfortunate move by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
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He wrote a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron, in which he called for an agreement to “allow all illegal migrants to cross the Channel” as part of a five-step request.
What angers the French – as well as politicians at home – is that Mr Johnson tweeted the letter before Mr Macron was officially sent.
The episode fueled tensions between London and Paris and proved contrary to both sides’ pledge to cooperate in preventing people from risking their lives building the dangerous Channel crossing.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmin said of the meeting, which was also attended by the police agency Europol: “The meeting was not anti-English. It was pro-European.
“European countries want to work with our British friends and allies.”
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Mr Darmanin confirmed that a European aircraft would be sent to “fly the area day and night” from Wednesday, 1 December, and Frontex stressed that potential reinforcements could be deployed on the ground if needed.
The agency’s executive director, Fabrice Legeri, told BFMTV: “We’re starting with one plane, but we can clearly move on.
“The states have mentioned the possible sending of people on the ground, it is one of the possible options.
“We can extend our support.”
Mr Legeri said Frontex’s mission was also to “fight crime”, which could be done “by collecting personal data across the borders”, which could then be provided to member states.
The sharing of data aligns with the intention to advance cooperation among EU nations.
Ylva Johansson says international cooperation is important and solutions should be discussed with UK
Ms Johansson said: “There is a need for greater coordination, cooperation and information sharing between police and law enforcement in member states.
“A week from now I will introduce an updated Police Co-operation Code to strengthen the mandate of police forces to work together.”
She said of the agency’s new role: “During the meeting in Calais it was confirmed that Frontex will provide a surveillance aircraft over the English Channel from this week.
“Frontex can do more to support surveillance, cameras, ships, aircraft, information sharing and with crews.
This will help in surveillance and investigation along the border and will also help in search and rescue.
Asked about possible actions with the UK, Mr Legeri of Frontex said no operations were possible with states that are not part of the EU or the Schengen Area without specific agreements.
Mr Darmanin told a news conference on Monday that, noting that he “cannot change our geography”, he was ready to resume “serious discussions” with the UK despite Mr Johnson’s poor communication last week. were prepared for what the Interior Minister called a “joke”. ,
He added: “We need to make compromises with our British friends and allies, regardless of whether they have decided to leave Europe.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega