Tough border checks based in France designed to stop illegal immigrants from entering the UK, have been inspected by the Home Secretary Theresa May on her first visit to the border controls in Calais.
The Home Secretary met her French counterpart, Minister Claude Guéant in Calais as well as UK Border Agency officers, French and UK police officers and representatives from the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) to discuss how people and technology are working together to secure the UK border.
She heard that this joint working has led to nine organised crime gangs being dismantled and more than 170 arrests in the past year.
UK Border Agency officers working at the Channel Tunnel UK Controls showed May how intelligence is used to select passengers suspected of smuggling banned goods. May was also shown the technology and techniques, including the use of CO2 probes and sniffer dogs, used at the ferry port to check lorries are not carrying illegal immigrants.
The Home Secretary also visited the Joint Operational Coordination Centre (JOCC) where French and UK officers work together to tackle the threat posed by organised immigration crime. It allows greater intelligence sharing, a joint approach to border security and inter-agency operations to counter illegal migration.
‘It is clear that the work of UK Border Agency officers based in Calais has made a real impact, stopping illegal immigrants entering the UK. This is also thanks to increased coordination between French and UK officers,’ said May.
‘We have seen a significant drop in the number of illegal immigrants attempting to evade the controls over the past year. The message is getting through, if you’re not legal you’re not welcome,’ she added.
She also said that she will shortly be announcing plans for a new National Crime Agency to tackle serious organised crime, which will include a Border Policing Command and will bring together officers from SOCA, the police and the UK Border Agency.’
May and Guéant confirmed their continued commitment to tackle illegal migration and smuggling. They also reflected on successes of the past year, including the clearing of the ‘jungle’ by the French which has reduced the number of illegal attempts to cross the channel from more than 29,000 in 2009 to just 3,500 so far in 2011.