France, UK will create a joint unit to fight migrant traffickers

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel (C) and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin (R), Calais, 12 July.

The interior ministers of France and Britain on Sunday signed an agreement creating a new joint police intelligence unit to combat migrant traffickers and reduce the "unsustainable" numbers crossing the Channel illegall, news wires reported.

France's new Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and his British counterpart Priti Patel met in Calais in northern France, where migrants have traditionally gathered in a bid to find a way to get to Britain. "We signed a new agreement to create a joint intelligence cell which will crack down on gangs behind vile people smuggling operation," Patel wrote on Twitter after the meeting. She said they had discussed "the unsustainable levels of illegal migration across the Channel."

The Franco-British unit will allow services to share intelligence quickly and will consist of six British and six French police officers based in Coquelles outside Calais, Darmanin told reporters.

Traffickers "are those who take advantage of the human distress of people who want to cross the English Channel and who, no doubt, are not being punished sufficiently at the moment," Darmanin said.

Channel crossing attempts have increased over the last year despite the danger of heavy maritime traffic, strong currents and low water temperatures. In 2019, 2,758 migrants were rescued by the French and British authorities while trying to make the crossing - four times more than in 2018, according to French officials.The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced the trend, with the reduced number of trucks going through the Channel Tunnel leading migrants to opt for small boats instead.


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