Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - GE­ORGINA STUBBS AND AN­DREW WOOD­COCK Press As­so­ci­a­tion news­[email protected]­line.co.uk

HOME Sec­re­tary Sa­jid Javid is cut­ting short a Christ­mas break to re­turn to the UK to tackle a wave of at­tempts by mi­grants to cross the English Chan­nel by boat.

On Fri­day, Mr Javid de­clared the sit­u­a­tion a “ma­jor in­ci­dent”, ap­point­ing a “gold com­man­der” to over­see the sit­u­a­tion and give daily up­dates.

But there were calls from MPs for the Royal Navy to be sent in or for Bor­der Force cut­ters to be brought back from the Mediter­ranean to tar­get traf­fick­ers’ boats.

Two boats car­ry­ing 12 men from Syria and Iran were brought to shore on Fri­day, just days af­ter 40 mi­grants at­tempted the cross­ing on Christ­mas Day.

Im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter Caro­line Nokes re­vealed Mr Javid’s plan to take per­sonal con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion as she vis­ited Dover to speak with Bor­der Force of­fi­cials on Satur­day.

“I can’t com­ment on his where­abouts for se­cu­rity rea­sons, but he is on his way back and he will be at his desk on Mon­day,” she said.

“He is tak­ing con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion and I am in reg­u­lar con­tact with him, and we had a con­fer­ence call just yes­ter­day.”

Mr Javid has been briefed on the lat­est in­tel­li­gence in a con­fer­ence call with of­fi­cials in the Bor­der Force, Im­mi­gra­tion En­force­ment and the Na­tional Crime Agency (NCA), and has also asked for an ur­gent call with his French coun­ter­part.

A union rep­re­sent­ing Bor­der Force staff said it was “very dif­fi­cult to know” how much the French au­thor­i­ties are do­ing to pre­vent peo­plesmug­gling from the camps hous­ing mi­grants in Calais.

“W e a r e be­ing to ld that those tout­ing for these cross­ings are ab­so­lutely open about it,” Lucy More­ton of the Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices Union told BBC Ra­dio 4’s To­day pro­gramme. “They are around and about in the camps, they are in the cafes in those ar­eas of Calais. They are very clear, very open, tout­ing for cross­ings that night.

“If it’s that ob­vi­ous to jour­nal­ists and staff in those ar­eas, then pre­sum­ably it is ob­vi­ous to the French au­thor­i­ties too.”

Ms More­ton said that the two cut­ters avail­able to Bor­der Force staff pa­trolling the English Chan­nel were “woe­fully in­ad­e­quate” but that adding to their num­bers would take a con­sid­er­able time.

John Wood­cock, a mem­ber of the House Com­mons Home Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, told The Sun: “The pub­lic is los­ing con­fi­dence in the strug­gling Bor­der Force. It’s time to stop the rot by send­ing in the Royal Navy. “If the civil­ian force can’t cope, the Navy must stop this

cri­sis be­com­ing a catas­tro­phe.” An­other com­mit­tee mem­ber, Tory Tim Loughton, told the pa­per: “There is a se­ri­ous se­cu­rity im­pli­ca­tion as this is a likely route un­de­sir­ables who have been fight­ing in Syria will use if they want to re­turn to the UK. “Of course there is now a case for the Royal Navy to be brought in to do bor­der pro­tec­tion in the Chan­nel.” Mr El­ph­icke said it would be bet­ter to bring Bor­der Force cut­ters back from the Mediter­ranean, where they are tak­ing part in search-an­dres­cue op­er­a­tions. “Bor­der Force of­fi­cials are trained to pro­tect bor­ders rather more than the Royal Navy,” the Dover MP told Sky News. “The Navy are very im­por­tant and very good, but they do other things and bor­der pro­tec­tion is not their key thing.”

Mr El­ph­icke called on the French au­thor­i­ties to “match the Home Sec­re­tary’s de­ter­mi­na­tion” by step­ping up ac­tion on their side of the English Chan­nel to stop traf­fick­ing net­works and pre­vent peo­ple at­tempt­ing dan­ger­ous cross­ings.

In­grid Par­rot, spokes­woman for the French Mar­itime Pre­fec­ture for the English Chan­nel, said the num­ber of il­licit cross­ings in small boats had in­creased from 23 in 2016 and 13 in 2017 to 70 this year, the ma­jor­ity of them af­ter the end of Oc­to­ber.

Ms Par­rot told To­day: “Be­fore 2018, we didn’t have smug­glers. But now we have smug­glers on the French coast, and it is re­ally a net­work.

“Be­fore that it was not a net­work, it was in­di­vid­ual mi­grants who were try­ing to cross. Now it’s a net­work, a crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

Ms Par­rot said smug­glers are us­ing the prospect of Brexit as a way to try to en­cour­age mi­grants to at­tempt the per­ilous cross­ing be­fore the im­pend­ing change in UK re­la­tions with the EU. Cross­ings had been “eas­ier” since the end of Oc­to­ber be­cause of the mild weather, she said.

She said French au­thor­i­ties ex­change “a lot of in­for­ma­tion” with UK coun­ter­parts about smug­gling op­er­a­tions, adding: “When mi­grants call us, we call MRCC (Mar­itime Res­cue Co-or­di­na­tion Cen­tre) at Dover and Bor­der Force to co-op­er­ate at sea to help these peo­ple, be­cause we re­ally fear find­ing bod­ies on the beach.”


Sa­jid Javid UK Bor­der Force staff at Dover Marina yes­ter­day

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