21 JAN 2019

Call for cutters and aerial surveillance on the Channel

I pressed the Home Secretary in the House of Commons on when the two long promised cutters would return from the Mediterranean to UK waters. I also called for 24/7 aerial surveillance along the French coast and a new cross-Channel compact between the UK and France to ensure all migrant boats are intercepted and returned safely to France before a tragedy occurs on the English Channel.

During Home Office Questions, I asked: "The arrival of 39 suspected migrants in crossings in just the last two days is a considerable concern to my constituents in Dover and Deal.

"Can I ask the Home Secretary when he will next meet his French counterpart to discuss this matter, whether round-the-clock aerial surveillance is something the Home Office will do urgently – and can he confirm the date on which the two cutters in the Mediterranean will return to be on station to secure our borders?"

Mr Javid replied: "My hon. friend is absolutely right to raise this. Aerial surveillance is already a measure that we have started deploying on the English Channel since I declared it a major incident.

"Also, whilst we are awaiting the arrival of two cutters for early February, we have increased the presence of vessels including with help from the Royal Navy. And in terms of meeting my French counterpart, Mr Castaner, I will be meeting him this week."

It's now getting on for a month since we were told the cutters would be brought back from the Med. Now we learn they may not return for another few weeks. That is completely unacceptable - they are needed urgently to secure our borders and protect lives.

The most effective deterrent to people trafficking and the best way to prevent tragedy is for traffickers to know that small craft will always be intercepted and returned to France. That's why when the Home Secretary meets his counterpart he should seek a new cross-Channel compact to put an end to these crossings.

Any compact must include 24/7 aerial surveillance, so that any small craft setting off from the French coast will be swiftly intercepted and helped safely back to France. This crisis has gone on far too long. Urgent action is now required to bring the crisis to an end before there is a tragedy in the English Channel.

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Charlie Elphicke

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