I thought you might appreciate an update on the Government’s work to respond to migrant pressures in Calais. The current situation is not a new one, nor does it originate in Calais. France – unlike the UK – is a member of the Schengen zone, so people are able to pass freely across its borders from other Schengen countries. The pressure this is putting on French ports is a Europe-wide challenge, demanding joint work with our EU partners and concerted action to tackle the organised crime gangs associated with illegal immigration, in addition to our own work to keep the UK border secure.
Since 2010, we have:
- recruited more Border Force staff and introduced systems to deploy those staff more flexibly and effectively;
- funded and maintained improved scanning equipment in Calais, including a recent £2 million investment to upgrade equipment to the latest technology; and
- increased Border Force seagoing patrol activity in the southern North Sea and eastern English Channel to counter the potential threat of trafficking by sea.
In addition to the ongoing work between the UK and France:
- the Home Secretary met the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on 29 August to discuss a series of emerging options to further strengthen our approach to illegal migration, including in Calais;
- a delegation of senior Home Office officials visited Paris yesterday to ensure this work is being taken forward urgently and to discuss our additional offer to France to deploy the fencing from the recent NATO Summit in Newport to strengthen security in Calais.
Three months ago the UK also committed an additional £3 million to help enhance port infrastructure in Calais and ensure that legitimate travellers can pass through border controls more quickly. We are pressing the Calais Chamber of Commerce to allow those measures to be implemented.
But Calais is only one part of the challenge posed by those who seek to flout the law and come to the UK illegally. Since 2010 we have taken strong measures to address illegal immigration, most recently through the Immigration Act 2014. This landmark piece of legislation will:
- ensure illegal migrants are unable to rent homes, open bank accounts or obtain a driving licence (in little over a month we have already revoked over 3,500 licences);
- cut abuse of the immigration system by reducing the number of routes by which people can appeal immigration decisions from 17 to 4; and
- clamp down on those who seek to evade immigration controls through sham marriage.
We have also driven forward further reform of the immigration system so that people with no legal right to benefits are refused them.