Two migrant boats intercepted while making Channel crossing

Diocese of Canterbury

Britain and France have agreed to boost bilateral cooperation over a spike in migrants trying to cross the Channel, the UK's Home Office said Sunday.

"We are being told that those touting for these crossings are absolutely open about it", Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Services Union told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

People smugglers have told migrants that they should attempt to make the crossing to the United Kingdom before border security is strengthened after Brexit on March 29, 2019.

The increase in those attempting to make the crossing in small boats in seas that are often rough and filled with commercial vessels has raised concern that the risky crossings will end in tragedy.

Reports say more than 200 people have tried to cross the Channel in dinghies and small vessels since November, with over 100 having attempted the crossing since Christmas.

Numerous boats leave from the area around the French port city of Calais, long a meeting point for migrants fleeing conflict or poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

John Woodcock, a member of the House Commons Home Affairs Committee, told The Sun: "The public is losing confidence in the struggling Border Force".

"If it's that obvious to journalists and staff in those areas, then presumably it is obvious to the French authorities too".

"Everyone knows that the rescues are being done by the RNLI, who are volunteers and going out over the Christmas period making sure people are not at harm on the high seas", said Mr Elphicke.

"If the civilian force can't cope, the Navy must stop this crisis becoming a catastrophe". It's time to stop the rot by sending in the Royal Navy.

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"Let's start by bringing back our cutters to the English Channel".

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Tory MP for Dover and Deal Charlie Elphicke called for all five of the Border Force's Cutters to be deployed in the Channel as a "powerful deterrent". The risk of people drowning is real, but the numbers are dwarfed by those in countries such as Turkey and Jordan who have taken millions of Syrian refugees.

Davey said the Lib Dems want more investment in a Stronger Border force to tackle criminal gangs trafficking people, drugs and weapons and undo the "damage done by Theresa May's cuts to Britain security".

Ms Nokes responded cautiously to calls for more patrol vessels, warning: "It is feasible that were we to put additional craft (out) they might act as a magnet - encouraging people to make a perilous crossing".

Ms Parrot told Today: "Before 2018, we didn't have smugglers".

"I and my French counterpart are clear that we must stop it".

Security has been tightened at key locations in and around Calais where migrants have in the past congregated to try to get onto lorries for the final leg of the journey to the UK.

Three migrants who were attempting to cross The English Channel from France to Britain are seen as they drift in an inflatable canoe off the French coast at Calais in August. "Now it's a network, a criminal organisation". Both smugglers were sentenced to eight years in prison.

Mr Castaner offered reassurances over France's efforts to break up people-smuggling gangs, pointing to the dismantling on December 19 of an entire organised crime group that had been trafficking migrants through the country. Some migrants may be attempting to reach British shores before Brexit negotiations are complete.

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