UK returns irregular migrants to France

British authorities have begun returning irregular migrants arriving in the UK to France. The first group of migrants, who reached the UK in a small boat late last year, were returned on 24 January 2019.

The UK Home Office said 539 migrants tried to travel in small boats to the UK in 2018. Around 80% of those migrants attempted to cross the English Channel in October alone. This move is now an attempt to discourage irregular migration across the English Channel.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid described the unprecedented increase in numbers of irregular migrants as a “major incident” on Sky News. He said the UK has been working with France to improve border security across Northern France and in the UK.

The Home Office also hopes that the forced returns of irregular migrants will “provide a strong deterrent against the dangerous crossings”. The UK is entitled to return asylum seekers under the Dublin Regulation, an EU law that means that asylum seekers are the responsibility of the first EU country they pass.

The British government will also increase funding for border control operations. It has pledged over GBP 6 million to support France’s surveillance of beaches and ports, and to improve coordination between land and sea patrol units. A further GBP 3.2 million will be invested in specialised equipment, such as security cameras and night-vision goggles.

Javid told The Independent: “It is vital we continue to work closely with our French partners to stop vulnerable migrants making these treacherous crossings and tackle the people smugglers who are putting their lives in danger.”

The challenges of surviving the winter conditions in France could be a reason for pushing migrants to risk their lives crossing the channel, said Josh Hallam, a field manager for Help Refugees.

“There’s a lack of appropriate and authoritative information,” he added. “The vacuum is filled by people who are really exploitative and dangerous.”

Hallam said smugglers are charging migrants between GBP 3,000 and 10,000 to help them undergo a risky and dangerous journey in boat, train, lorry or car.

TMP – 01/02/2019

Photo caption: French gendarmes patrol on the beach of Oye-Plage, near Calais, northern France, on January 9, 2019 as they try to intercept migrants attempting to cross the Channel.