Both Ministers attended a UK/France government meeting yesterday (Tuesday 28 July) on illegal migrants making the journey across the Mediterranean to get to Europe.
They discussed the European Agenda on Migration and wider diplomatic collaboration to resolve the migration challenge in the Mediterranean, which is contributing to the situation in Calais and Coquelles.
France and the UK reaffirmed the determination of both countries to enhance practical co-operation ahead of the EU-Africa summit on migration in November, and expressed their regret at the recent loss of life amongst migrants trying to cross the Channel.
The joint action between our countries will include work on development and diplomacy in source and transit countries, action against organised immigration crime and the need to ensure an effective returns programme for illegal migrants.
Tackling illegal migration and its causes upstream
What has been happening in the Mediterranean in recent months is an unacceptable and tragic reminder of the huge risks migrants take when they attempt the perilous journey to reach Europe.
In this context, the EU is fully engaged on this important issue, addressing it at the level of the European Council in April and June 2015.
The UK and France are playing a full part in dealing with the immediate situation to prevent further loss of life at sea.
Both countries agree that it is important to stabilise countries from which migrants are coming, and to target and stop the callous criminals who lie behind this vile trade in human beings. Only by doing that can we find a long-term solution to the problem.
Until we do this, numbers will continue to grow, criminals will get richer and public confidence will be undermined.
To support this, the UK and France are playing a leading role in pushing for action through the EU and the UN to tackle the root causes of illegal immigration and the organised trafficking gangs behind it. Considerable progress has already been made through better intelligence sharing and increased collaboration between law enforcement agencies.
The UK and France are committed to working together to pursue and disrupt the organised crime groups profiting from the people smuggling trade in source and transit countries in North, East and West Africa.
Therefore, the UK and France welcomed the decision to launch the EU CSDP mission at the Foreign Affairs Council in June reinforcing the EU’s determination to combat smuggling of migrants.The UK and France are committed to enriching the intelligence picture, developing a shared strategic analysis of the problems. We need to ensure that all possible information and intelligence, including from migrant debriefing, is shared across Europe though the JOT MARE analysis centre in Europol so that we can develop operational intelligence to target the criminals. To assist, the UK and France are both posting intelligence and law enforcement specialists in the analysis centre.
With Europol and EU partners, the UK and France have supported the establishment of the EU Regional Taskforce in Sicily, but there is still more to be done across Europe at transit points. Following the “hotspot approach” put forward by the Commission, migrants should be systematically identified on arrival; for those that do not need international protection, return should be effectively enforced. Upstream work is equally important and our two countries have plans for closer engagement with source countries, so we can support intelligence gathering and investigations at source.
The UK and France agree it is vital we deal with the continuous migration of people from countries of origin. Both countries have agreed to work together on returning migrants to their countries of origin, particularly in West Africa. In Niger, a support centre for migrants is expected to open by the end of the year under the auspices of the International Organization for Migration. To reach these goals, the Valletta conference will be of utmost importance; the EU must set an ambitious and concrete agenda combining development issues, capacity building and an improvement in the short term of the cooperation of these countries in the field of readmission.
The UK Government has announced a new range of programmes to address the root causes of the migrant crisis. This includes aid initiatives totalling £217 million in Africa, to help approximately 2.5 million refugees and vulnerable people in the countries that the majority of migrants are travelling from or through. An additional £100 million in aid will help those displaced as a result of the Syria crisis.
With more than €3 billion a year in development assistance to Africa, France contributes to addressing the root causes of migration. Countries of origin and transit in West Africa are among those countries who receive the most, including to reinforce their capacities and to help them with the management of migration and refugees. Both countries agreed to coordinate their efforts in this field and push for ambitious EU aid programmes to develop the skills and improve the lives of those in source countries, aiming to improve standards of living and reduce drivers for migration.
The Port of Calais and the Channel Tunnel
The UK and France continue to work together on implementing the Joint Declaration of September 2014, which included £12 million financed by the United Kingdom, to address the current migrant situation in Nord Pas de Calais, alongside a further £1.4 million (2m Euros) towards the secure waiting area for lorries at Calais (announced by the Home Secretary on 14 July).
As the Home Secretary described in the UK Parliament on 14 July, it was also confirmed yesterday that the UK has agreed to additional funding of up to £7 million towards increasing security at the Channel Tunnel railhead at Coquelles.
The French government has deployed significant police reinforcements in Calais to maintain law and order and ensure the security of goods and people. In addition, France has an active programme of humanitarian support for migrants aiming especially at encouraging their access to international protection. France is already contributing 10 million Euros a year to cover the costs of humanitarian support for migrants in Calais, and expects that significant additional money will need to be spent in achieving the conditions that are needed.
Both sides agree to strengthen cooperation in identifying and providing help for victims of human trafficking and prosecuting smugglers involved in this. France and the UK intend to continue their communication campaigns in order to inform migrants about possibilities of seeking asylum in France and the realities of life for illegal migrants in the UK.
This work to improve security at the site has already started with deployment of the security fences used at the NATO summit – and permanent fencing too. This will protect the train platforms where migrants are attempting to board waiting and slow moving trains destined for the UK. And the first UK contribution of extra fencing at the Channel Tunnel will be completed this week.
The French Interior Minister welcomed the Home Secretary’s recent announcement that the UK Government will support the Port of Calais to create a secure waiting area for UK-bound lorries within the Port. The new secure waiting area is being progressed and we have reached an agreement with the Port to provide secure waiting for a number of lorries with immediate effect. The secure waiting area, coupled with the additional fencing at Calais port, will enable 230 vehicles to wait safely when queues occur. The two Ministers also discussed the continuing law enforcement focus in the Calais region, to prevent illegal migration and avoid further loss of life on the railway line.
The two Ministers are particularly pleased with the progress achieved in yesterday’s meeting and will be expecting regular reports from officials on taking forward the different strands of work agreed. They agreed that there should be a further UK/France government dialogue in Paris before the end of the year, alongside continuing daily operational collaboration.