The UK and France have teamed up in a new plan to tackle the problem of illegal immigrants trying to enter the UK via Calais.
The measures were announced by Home Secretary Theresa May, and French Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, as part of an overall plan to increase security at the port of Calais. This includes the installation of higher fencing; additional security in the car park area of the port; and the introduction of new technology which can detect people hiding in lorries. It will cost the UK government around £12million over the next three years.
Calais is one of the main ports through which illegal immigrants cross the Channel. The Governments of the UK and France hope that these new measures will help reduce the number of illegal immigrants entering the UK.
In a joint statement, May and Cazeneuve said that they hoped to 'ensure that all measures taken will deter illegal migrants from congregating in and around Calais.'
There has been an increase in the number of migrants arriving at Calais in recent months, which has caused increased tension with the local residents. It is estimated that there are currently around 1,500 illegal immigrants currently living in Calais, with many in tents and squats. There has also been reported violence on the streets of the town. Last month migrants held a human rights demonstration.
The UK Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, has described the problem at Calais as a 'shared issue' between the UK and France, and has stated that law enforcement agencies from both countries will also investigate the organised gangs who are involved in people trafficking.
As part of the deal, the UK will contribute five million Euros a year (£4m) over the next three years, into a joint fund. Brokenshire has denied that the UK was put under pressure to reach an agreement with the French government.
'What this is about is underlining that long-term relationship with the French, focusing on border security, focusing on investment in Calais as a port as well,' he said.
As part of the agreement, there will also be a fund to support informational campaigns, which will help explain the problems caused by illegal immigration into the UK. Theresa May has said that there is an 'evident migration crisis' in the Mediterranean area, and has pushed for EU action to try and resolve this.
The National Crime Agency will also be working closely with Ocriest, the French agency who are responsible for dealing with illegal immigration. In addition to this, the French border police will make monthly trips to work with the UK border intelligence group in Folkestone.
The problem at Calais has been gradually becoming worse over the past decade. Things came to a head over the summer with Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart threatening to blockade the port, unless the UK intervened to try and help deal with the illegal immigrant problem.
Earlier this month a group of migrants were able to get past security, but their attempted passage to the UK was halted when they were spotted running up the ramp to a ferry bound for the UK.
Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, Charlie Elphicke said 'this problem at Calais has a knock-on effect to the UK. We're not a disinterested spectator, and it's right that we take action with the French to deal with this problem.'