French officials to patrol Channel coastline by drone more regularly to tackle crossings | Politics | News

January 31, 2024
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Officials from the UK and France have agreed to ramp up their use of drones to monitor migrants attempting to cross the Channel.

France has now confirmed it will deploy aerial surveillance regularly for the first time over the Northern coast of France.

The UK has been using £400,000 state-of-the-art drones over the Channel but not over the French coastline.

Home Secretary James Cleverly met French interior minister Gerald Darmanin on Tuesday to strengthen security ties between the two nations.

Speaking following their meeting, Mr Cleverly called the countries “friends, neighbours and partners.”

He added: “Our co-operation against the full range of security threats and challenges is vital for both our countries and for Europe.

“France is an essential partner to prevent illegal migration.

“The UK continues to support the challenges faced by French law enforcement, operating under increasingly difficult circumstances to save lives and disrupt organised criminal gangs.”

Legal requirements have prevented the French from deploying aerial surveillance of its coastline more often.

But the country’s courts authorised the police use of drones in April – and have begun monitoring the coast near Calais and Cherboug.

The police still need to go through various legal barriers before sending a drone into the air.

They need to ensure they are being used for the prevention of acts of terrorism, national security concerns or emergency help.

They cannot be used for criminal investigations and the video cannot contain facial recognition software.

Isabelle Fradin-Thirode, senior interior minister official in Montreuil-sur-Mer on the Channel coast, said in October that the drones were “mainly used to detect a [migrant] boat that might have sunk.”

More than 1,000 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the Channel.

Home Office figures show more than 300 people made the journey at the weekend, with 112 recorded in two boats on Saturday and 276 on Sunday in five boats.

This takes the provisional total for 2024 to date to 1,057.



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