Tough UK border checks based in France designed to stop illegal immigrants from entering the UK, were seen today by the home secretary Theresa May on her first visit to the border controls in Calais.
The home secretary met her French counterpart, minister Claude Gueant in Calais as well as UK border agency officers, French and UK police officers and representatives from the serious and organised crime agency (SOCA) to discuss how people and technology are working together to secure the UK border. This joint working has led to nine organised crime gangs being dismantled and more than 170 arrests in the past year.
UK border agency officers working at the channel tunnel UK controls showed Mrs May how intelligence is used to select passengers suspected of smuggling banned goods. Mrs May was also shown the technology and techniques, including the use of CO2 probes and sniffer dogs, used at the ferry port to check lorries are not carrying illegal immigrants.
The home secretary also visited the joint operational coordination centre (JOCC) where French and UK officers work together to tackle the threat posed by organised immigration crime. It allows greater intelligence sharing, a joint approach to border security and inter-agency operations to counter illegal migration.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
‘It is clear that the work of UK border agency officers based in Calais has made a real impact, stopping illegal immigrants entering the UK. This is also thanks to increased coordination between French and UK officers.
‘We have seen a significant drop in the number of illegal immigrants attempting to evade the controls over the past year. The message is getting through – if you’re not legal you’re not welcome.
‘I will shortly be announcing plans for a new national crime agency to tackle serious organised crime, which will include a border policing command and will bring together officers from SOCA, the police and the UK border agency.’
Mrs May and Minister Gueant confirmed today their continued commitment to tackle illegal migration and smuggling. They also reflected on successes of the past year, including the clearing of the ‘jungle’ by the French which has reduced the number of illegal attempts to cross the channel from more than 29,000 in 2009 to just 3,500 so far in 2011.
Notes to editors
The UK has juxtaposed immigration controls at Coquelles (channel tunnel) and Calais ferry port.
Hundreds of UK border agency officers based at ports in France and Belgium work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to stop illegal immigrants before they step foot in the UK. In 2010 officers stopped more than 9,700 attempts to cross the channel illegally.
The UK border agency uses sniffer dogs, carbon dioxide detectors, heartbeat monitors and visual searches to find stowaways.
At Dover and Coquelles, between 2009 and 2011 the UK border agency has seized:
- over 1 tonne of class A drugs;
- 15 tonnes of cannabis;
- £4.25 million in criminal cash;
- 245 million cigarettes;
- 100 tonnes of hand rolling tobacco; and
- 60 firearms.
The JOCC was opened in March 2010, following a commitment at the evian summit in July 2009, where £15 million investment was pledged to boost border controls.
The key tasks of the JOCC are to:
- coordinate efficient operation of detection scanning technology;
- facilitate effective communication between all relevant agencies on key risks and targets;
- act as a central point of contact for external stakeholders;
- organise and coordinate the joint actions of the authorities; and
- act as an effective link between the Joint Intelligence Cell and the front line.