To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department is taking to reduce the number of small boat crossings in the Channel.
24 November 2021
I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the answer that I gave him on this matter on 28 October. I reiterate that these crossings are dangerous and unnecessary, and that we are determined to bring them to an end and to tackle the criminality behind them.
This is part of a wider European and global migration issue and we expect our international partners to engage with us to stop people making perilous crossings. We continue to work closely with France and other countries to make these crossings unviable, but we are clear that more needs to be done.
We welcome French Interior Minister Darmanin’s suggestion that 100% of crossings could be prevented with the help of the UK’s recent £54m package of support. That package is strengthening law enforcement deployments along the coast of France, more than doubling again equipped police resource focused on addressing illegal migration; it is enhancing intelligence-sharing and making greater use of surveillance technology; and it is supporting more border security at key transport infrastructure along the Channel coast.
Nearly 20,000 crossings have been prevented this year despite the number of attempts almost trebling. So far this year there have been 46 arrests made by Immigration Enforcement of those involved in facilitating these crossings. There have been 9 convictions, attracting over 17 years in custodial sentences. Recognising that much of the criminality involved lies outside of the UK, we are also supporting wider law enforcement activity to tackle the threat of organised immigration crime. Between July 2020 and October 2021, the Joint Intelligence Cell has been involved in over 400 arrests relating to small boats activity in France, and has seen 17 organised crime groups involved in Channel crossings dismantled.
Tragically, we have seen a number of people lost at sea in recent weeks attempting these crossings. As I have said previously, we must ensure that those involved in people smuggling are punished with the severity it rightly deserves. The Nationality and Borders Bill (Nationality and Borders Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament (https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3023)) will enable this and will also act as a much stronger deterrent for those tempted to pursue that despicable path. These long overdue reforms will break the business model of the criminal trafficking networks and make their activities unviable.
Our New Plan for Immigration will address the challenge of illegal migration for the first time in over two decades through comprehensive reform of our asylum system, making big changes and building a new system that is fair but firm.