UK returns migrants to France after ‘major incident’ in Channel

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The UK has returned to France “a small number of migrants” who illegally crossed the Channel late last year.

The Home Office revealed the group were taken back to France on Thursday morning, on the same day Home Secretary Sajid Javid held talks with his French counterpart to agree an immediate action plan.

Mr Javid declared a “major incident” in the Channel over the Christmas period following an uptick in the number of migrants attempting to reach the UK on small boats.

Home Office figures revealed 539 migrants attempted to travel to the UK on small boats in 2018, with around 80% making their attempts in the last three months of the year.

However, they have so far not released comparative figures for 2017.

Mr Javid previously ordered the redeployment of two Border Force vessels from overseas to the Channel as part of efforts to stem migrant crossings.

The home secretary held “productive talks” with French interior minister Christophe Castaner in Westminster on Thursday as he continued to respond to concerns.

More than £6m will be invested in new security equipment, while both countries made a commitment to return people as quickly as possible under EU rules state asylum claims must be made in the first member state a person arrives in.

Mr Javid said: “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.

“Today’s joint action plan strengthens our already strong relationship and increases joint action around keeping both our borders secure and discouraging these dangerous journeys.”

The UK will allocate more than £6m to support French efforts to heighten surveillance and security on French beaches and ports, as well as increase coordination between authorities on land and at sea.

More than half of the investment was already pledged at a UK-France agreement signed in January last year.

An extra £3.2m of new funding will be used to pay for equipment such as night-vision googles, number plate recognition technology and more security camera at French ports.

Mr Castaner said: “This agreement once again shows the UK’s commitment to managing our shared border along with us.

“By combating illegal Channel crossings by migrants, we’re saving lives and deterring new migrants from coming to Hauts-de-France.”

(c) Sky News 2019: UK returns migrants to France after ‘major incident’ in Channel

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