Thank you for contacting me about the situation in Calais.
I can assure you that the UK works closely with the French authorities on matters of security to maintain the integrity of our border. For example, during recent French strike action over 8,000 illegal migrants were intercepted by British and French authorities. It is in the interests of British citizens and legitimate immigrants to have controlled immigration and secure borders; it is in the interests of illegal immigrants themselves not to risk a perilous journey when what they face at the end is arrest and deportation.
While it is for the French to maintain security of their port, and to maintain public order on their soil, the UK will do what it can to help. The UK has committed £19 million towards bolstering security and infrastructure to tackle problems at the port of Calais. £1.4 million will go towards the secure waiting zone for 230 lorries in Calais, which will transform protection for lorries and their drivers, removing them from the open road where they can become targets for migrants, and further fencing and Border Force detection teams will be provided by the UK. The UK has already been strengthening physical security at both the Calais port and the Channel Tunnel. Staffing levels have been increased, security patrols extended, £2 million invested in heartbeat scanners and wave sensor technology, and £1 million for extra sniffer dogs to detect bodies in lorries. Border Force has stepped up patrols by its fleet of cutters, and the UK agreed to provide £3 million for a range of security measures across the ports in northern France. £7 million has been agreed for increasing security at the Channel Tunnel railhead at Coquelles.
The Government is also working to discourage economic migrants and return those who have no right to asylum. Two hundred migrants every month are being returned who have no right to asylum and the UK is increasing communication campaigns to discourage migration by tackling the myths about life in Britain. The message is clear to economic migrants making the dangerous journey to Calais: our border is secure and there is no easy way into the UK. Those making the journey will be returned to their own country.
France is already contributing €10 million a year to cover the costs of humanitarian support, and with financial contributions from the EU, a day centre has been set up providing bathroom facilities and 2,000 meals a day. The French are also encouraging migrants to access humanitarian protection in France.
However, the problems in Calais are clearly symptomatic of a wider issue that needs to be tackled at source and in transit countries. I know that the Government is clear that the link between people making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean and achieving settlement in Europe must be broken, and that we must target and disrupt the organised criminal gangs who profit from this. A dedicated law enforcement team of around 90 officers has been established to tackle organised immigration crime in the UK, the Mediterranean and Africa. It will pursue and disrupt organised crime groups and use every measure to smash the gangs’ criminal operations.
The UK is also providing practical and financial support to other EU countries, including help to process newly arrived illegal immigrants and distinguish between economic migrants and genuine refugees.
It is of course essential to address this problem at source, and the UK has a proud record of providing aid to alleviate poverty and suffering overseas. £900 million has been committed to help people displaced by the Syrian crisis, making us the second largest bilateral donor in the world in responding to that humanitarian crisis. New aid initiatives totalling £217 million in Africa will go to help approximately 2.5 million refugees and vulnerable people in the countries that the majority of migrants are travelling from or through. This is part of over £4 billion the Government has already committed to improving economic development, governance and security in African states as well as improving access to basic services.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.