Facilitating these crossings is illegal and no one should be attempting them in the first place. France, from where almost all embark, is a manifestly safe country with a fully functioning asylum system. Any of these migrants needing protection should claim it in France. Those seeking to cross must traverse some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. It is a reckless and dangerous crossing, putting the lives of the people who attempt it – including children and babies – and those rescuing them, at serious risk.
The Government is working flat out to put a complete stop to these crossings, and all attempts to reach the UK clandestinely and action is being taken on a daily basis. This includes working closely with our French partners.
The National Crime Agency, Immigration Enforcement, Border Force and the UK Police are working closely with French authorities to crack down on the criminals who facilitate the crossings. There is a UK-France Coordination and Information Centre opened in Calais which opened in November 2018
This law enforcement response is delivering results. French law enforcement prevented over 1000 people from crossing by small boats in April and May 2020.
In 2019, Immigration Enforcement made 418 arrests, leading to 203 convictions for a total of 437 years. Out of these, 259 arrests and 100 convictions were for people smuggling. Immigration Enforcement carried out 841 disruptions against organised crime gangs and individuals engaged in organised immigration crime, 404 of which were related to people smuggling. So far in 2020, 21 people smugglers have been convicted and put behind bars as a result of Immigration Enforcement investigations, with more investigations underway.
The UK Government has also returned over 155 small boats arrivals back to Europe since January 2019 using the legal channels available. We have a further 686 return cases which we are currently urgently progressing.
There is more we need to do beyond this. We are working on developing tactics to prevent crossings at sea, and on ways to rapidly return those who do get across. This may require new legislation and new agreements with the French Government. These are currently under active discussion.