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Illegal migrant crossings at Dover

In the past few weeks, I have received a growing number of emails and messages regarding the illegal migrant crossings at Dover.

I share concerns about how heinous gangs are exploiting and trafficking vulnerable people; especially at such a volatile time for our country given the on-going pandemic. The Home Secretary and Prime Minister are committed to stopping illegal Channing crossings.

Under the 'Dublin Regulation', asylum seekers must seek refuge in the first safe country they arrive within the EU area. There is no reason why an asylum seeker in France as a safe, modern country should illegally travel to the UK to seek refuge. Unfortunately, this has not been easily enforced in practice.

In recent weeks, there have been more illegal crossings at Dover due to greater dispersal of migrants across the French, and now Belgian, coasts. The UK Government is committed to stopping illegal crossings at Dover and is working closely with France to do so.

Smuggling gangs are exploiting a maritime legal loophole to prevent the French Navy intercepting the migrant boats. Migrants have threatened to jump into the sea to prevent them from being returned to France when the French attempt to intercept their boats. Under international maritime law - which puts the preservation of life above all else - this leaves the French Navy no option but to shadow the boats to ensure their safety.

The French Government has a similar interest in stopping illegal Channel crossings. They do not want to allow crossings as this creates a strong pull factor for more migrants to come across the EU into northern France in the hope of crossing too. The French have been successful in clearing migrant camps and patrolling beaches, however, boats do slip through. Upon arrival, those aboard the boats have to be processed through the asylum system before the Government is legally able to return them.

The Home Secretary announced on the 20th May during an LBC interview that the Government plans to replace the current agreement with France and the EU with a new legal framework that will allow us to return illegal migrants, whether caught at sea or on land.

The UK and French governments have agreed on three key areas to help combat the trade in illegal sea crossings. There will be increased deployment of forces, with adequate equipment, on the French coast, with UK financial support. The National Crime Agency is already engaged with law enforcement agencies on the other side of the Channel, in efforts to smash the people-smuggling rings responsible.

As part of a fresh crackdown on these migrations across the English Channel, there is now 24/7 coverage on the beaches of northern France, with drones and Automatic Number-Plate Recognition being deployed. The Home Office will also be combatting "vexatious" claims and methods used by illegal migrants.

It is important to remember that those attempting to make the dangerous crossing are very often victims of criminal smuggling gangs, and it is absolutely vital that we work with our allies to counter the reprehensible practice of human trafficking.

I am monitoring this issue and will continue to keep you informed about the UK's efforts to stop this criminal trade.

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