The Home Office has backed an offshore gendarmerie to carry out border controls and would not say whether it has begun. But Britain has sent back more than 3,500 boat migrants since March 2015, a Freedom of Information request shows
The Home Office has backed an offshore gendarmerie to carry out border controls and would not say whether it has begun. But Britain has sent back more than 3,500 boat migrants since March 2015, a Freedom of Information request has revealed. Britain allowed the “exploration” of the option, which was also advocated by the former prime minister David Cameron, as part of a campaign to deport illegal migrants.
A “vulnerable” Bulgarian woman was found murdered off the north coast of France on Saturday, leading to concerns that her remains may have been among the scores of migrants lost in an accident in February. Last month the Guardian revealed that British Home Office officials tried to send officers to carry out the gendarmerie’s patrol duties. The service was due to begin its patrols in May but was stalled for months because of the civil service pay cap.
The Home Office has refused to answer whether any ships have been dispatched in the past few weeks or whether any are on their way. It could not say whether the boats had been purchased or how many had been seen in the Channel. It also did not specify which company it employed.
Amid growing concern about thousands of migrants risking their lives to board lorries along the motorway that leads from Calais to the port of Lille, the French coastguard has introduced a new security system to increase surveillance and swiftly intercept potentially dangerous refugees.
Under a month-old system, migrants have been given a waiting area to gather if they have been found in the ferry, car, or train. Families and pregnant women are separated to ensure those rescued can be medically examined. Migrants have also been given 48 hours to board the ferry or train, in some cases arriving into Lille less than two hours after being rescued.
Le French coastguard’s new system prevents immigrants from waiting at sea. Photograph: L’Hire Organisations Absoluered et Unite aux Personnes Abductées des Beaucoupes de Harcèls Et Réfugiés (Hams and Ashes)
The vessel used to enforce the rules, a Sentinel class surveillance vessel, can monitor 30 square miles of water on a single shift and is expected to cost €1.4m (£1.2m) a year to maintain.
The system is the first of its kind at sea and aims to deter migrants from disembarking while boats from other countries or from North Africa continue their journeys to find new refugee camps.
Each vessel monitors two to three migrant boats a shift – including several mixed boats that were said to have returned to Calais with migrants from Libya, often with nothing but their shoes and T-shirts. The radar also stops migrant boats from fish farming vessels and can alert emergency services if they sink in danger of tragedy.
The system was deployed for the first time on 12 December. Only on Thursday did the French coastguard publicise the system.