Channel migrants confront tighter French coast patrols


CALAIS, FRANCE: A chain of buoys blocks a riv­er in northern France, the lat­est costly measure the au­thorities have deployed in their almost impossible mis­sion to stop Britain-bound mi­grants crossing the Channel.

Set up on August 10 near the La Canche estuary, the float­ing barrier is designed to halt so-called “taxi boats” used by people smugglers in re­cent months.

The small ves­sels start their perilous jour­neys empty, away from the beaches, before picking up mi­grants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia on the coast.

Af­ter 27 people drowned in No­vember 2021 — the worst ac­cident in the Channel since the narrow strait became a key irregular migration route — patrols have been stepped up.

All along some 130 kilo­metres (81 miles) of coastline between the city of Dunkirk and the Somme Bay, the au­thorities scour the area day and night.

The silence of dawn is broken by the purring en­gine of a plane belonging to EU border agency Frontex, equipped with infrared and thermal cameras to rescue stricken migrants alongside drones. Advancing on foot or buggies, an average of 800 se­curity force personnel sur­vey the beaches and dunes ev­ery day.

Surveillance cameras have been installed in 12 com­munes and four ports, with the scheme set to be widened in 2024, according to the lo­cal authorities.

The cat-and-mouse game between the po­lice and migrants has moved to the coast after security was tightened in 2018 at the port of Calais and the Channel tunnel linking France with southeast England.

The area surround­ing Calais now resembles a fortress: fencing and cameras encircle the port and tunnel terminal, while an “anti-in­trusion” wall has been erect­ed beside a road to prevent migrants clambering onto lorries.

Fencing also protects parking spots in the Trans­marck logistical zone. “We manage to get in” sometimes, “but it’s difficult”, said Awham, a 23-year-old Sudanese man pushed out of the area by po­lice. As well as battling cross­ing attempts, the authorities are waging a war on places where migrants may gather to avoid the reappearance of camps known as “jungles”.__The Nation