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Migrant Channel Crossings

Volume 689: debated on Monday 8 February 2021

The Government are taking a huge range of measures to prevent these dangerous and illegal crossings. Most notably, the Home Secretary reached an agreement with her French counterpart in late November to increase the number of gendarmes deployed on the French beaches and to take a variety of other steps aimed at preventing embarkations from the French shores. To anyone considering this trip, I say that it is dangerous, they are putting their lives at risk, it is illegal, but, most of all, it is unnecessary because France is a safe country where it is perfectly possible to claim asylum.

Last month, the Eastbourne Royal National Lifeboat Institution rescued more than 30 migrants who had got into difficulty in the channel. I commend its sterling work. Its mission is simply to save lives at sea. I have every concern for those it rescued, but, as my hon. Friend has just outlined, there are serious concerns that this is pump-priming human traffickers, and the fact remains that people are putting themselves at risk. Can he outline to the House the work that is being undertaken with the French and with our European neighbours to intercept and close down human traffickers long before they reach the channel coast?

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. Let me start by paying tribute to the RNLI for the work that it does at sea keeping people safe in what are often very treacherous and difficult circumstances. She is right to outline the work that we need to do to disrupt and prevent these dangerous criminal gangs before they even launch the boats in the first place. The National Crime Agency and many other law enforcement agencies across Europe and beyond are working together to disrupt these criminal gangs. We regularly prosecute people for facilitating these small boat crossings. Last year, we successfully prosecuted 50 or 60 people. There have been several more prosecutions just in the last week, in addition to the law enforcement work we are now doing with the French, doubling the gendarme patrols, for example, which, just in the last few days, has resulted in literally hundreds of people being intercepted before they even set off. So these measures are now working, but we are certainly not going to give up: we will continue working with our French colleagues until these dangerous, illegal and unnecessary crossings are completely stopped.

Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking Kent police and the police and crime commissioner, Matthew Scott, for their important work on this issue of migration and border policing? Can he assure me that, across my whole constituency, in Dover and Deal and at nearby Napier barracks, Kent police are having extra funding for carrying out this vital work?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that she has done in consistently standing up for her constituents on this issue, and to Matthew Scott, who does such a fantastic job as Kent’s police and crime commissioner. No doubt he will be triumphantly re-elected shortly. On the question of resources, Kent has had an extra 162 police officers recruited so far and I believe that there are many more to come. Assuming the precept is used, it will have an extra £19.5 million in the next financial year as well. In addition to that, if there are particular issues caused by small boats or, indeed, by the barracks at Napier, it is able to apply to the Home Office for exceptional funding and, if it feels that that is merited, I would certainly encourage it to do that.