A A joint Franco-British patrol at sea would be more effective in tackling the migrant crisis than putting “more boots on the ground” in Calais, suggested a former boss of the border forces.
Tony Smith believes such a plan would prevent people from drowning, but would need the right “political deal” from both countries.
His comments come after Interior Minister Priti Patel told MPs that offers of joint patrols had been made “once again” to her French counterpart, adding: “I offered to work with the France to put officers on the ground and do absolutely whatever is necessary to secure the area so that vulnerable people do not risk their lives by boarding boats in poor condition.
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, she said: “We have to find common solutions and if that really means doing more with France and persuading them to take more support, we will do absolutely everything to do it. “
Mr Smith, a former director general of border forces, told the Palestinian Authority news agency that joint patrols and a return agreement to return people to France “would shatter the business model all at once because it would be pointless to pay 5,000 euros to a smuggler. get into a small boat.
“I’m not sure that sending more boots into the field to increase CRS (Calais police) will really solve the problem.
“It’s much bigger than that,” he said, adding that France “should be responsible” for what is happening by patrolling a “large area of French territory”.
Calais MP Pierre-Henri Dumont told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the idea would not work because it would take “thousands of people” to watch hundreds of kilometers of French coastline, adding: “There also has a question of sovereignty – I’m not sure the British people would accept it the other way around, with the French army patrolling the British shore.
Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd told ITV’s Peston: “If you had French police officers working in Hastings, I don’t see that being really acceptable to both sides. “
Mr Smith said there was a need for a “cross-channel governance structure … working under one command with a simple mission – to save lives, prevent people from drowning and incapacitate human smugglers.”
He said there was a precedent for joint operations under a principle called the Integrated Border Control Team, which can operate across national borders.
It was used to monitor areas straddling the United States and Canada, he said.
Joint maritime patrols are “permitted under international law” and there is “no reason why we cannot have a joint patrol along the Channel on both sides”.
This would “at least prevent drowning, like the terrible drowning we saw yesterday, because you would have sufficient capacity, whether in French or British waters, to prevent that from happening”, he said. -he adds.
The “sticking point” would be the political questions that this might raise about broader immigration and asylum policies, he said, as it would involve returning people to France, where they entered the country. ‘water.
Mr Smith said: “I think it behooves them to commit to this because the alternative, well, we’ve seen what the alternative is, people are going to drown. “
The use of joint patrols raises a series of questions, such as: who would be responsible; who charges the patrols and decides what to do; how they behave; what are their powers and authorities; where would their competence begin and end; and what resources would be used?
The Border Force is already “stretched enough” and already has “significant resources” on the Kent coast to deal with the numbers of people arriving. He said other bodies should be considered including the police, the National Crime Agency and “maybe even the military, if that were acceptable.”
In addition to an agreed strategy, legislation may even be needed to make this possible, but Mr Smith said: “Operationally it is perfectly doable…”
He also said drones could be used more.