EU surveillance plane to monitor English Channel for people crossings

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Eu Surveillance Plane To Monitor English Channel For People Crossings Eu Surveillance Plane To Monitor English Channel For People Crossings
Interior ministers from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the European Commission met in Calais on Sunday. Photo: PA Images.
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By Ted Hennessey and Sam Blewett, PA

A European Union plane is set to monitor the shores of the English Channel for people crossings, after 27 people died when a boat capsized.

Interior ministers from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the European Commission met in Calais on Sunday to discuss small boat crossings, although UK officials such as home secretary Priti Patel were not present.

It was decided that from December 1st, a plane operated by EU border agency Frontex will help the countries to monitor their shores.

Migration officials also pledged to work together more closely against people-smuggling networks and the trade in inflatable boats.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters after the meeting in the French port: “We have to prevent lives being lost. We have to prevent chaos coming to our external borders.”

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin revealed leaders had stressed the need to work with the UK to tackle the issue.

He said: “This meeting was not anti-English. It was pro-European. We want to work with our British friends and allies.”

Ms Patel was understood to be pleased with the decision to dispatch the Frontex plane.

Ms Patel had said it was “unfortunate” she could not be present at the meeting during an earlier conversation with Dutch migration minister Ankie Broekers-Knol on Sunday morning.

The UK home office said the phone call saw Ms Patel stress the need to work with European countries. They also discussed “ideas for enhanced bilateral and EU co-operation” as well as the need to tackle criminal gangs operating boat journeys across the Channel, it was said.

Ms Patel said on Twitter: “I will be holding urgent talks with my European counterparts this week to prevent further tragedies in the Channel.

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“More international co-operation and passing our Borders Bill quickly into law will stop the people smugglers and save lives.”

She had said that failing to increase co-operation with Europe could cause “even worse scenes” in the Channel this winter.

(PA Graphics)

The UK’s invitation to the meeting was withdrawn after British prime minister Boris Johnson angered Emmanuel Macron by publicly sharing a letter he had written to the French president on how to deal with the issue.

Ms Patel said conversations with Mr Darmanin had been “constructive” on Thursday, though she did not repeat the term about their talks on Friday as the diplomatic row was peaking.

UK Labour shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News: “France blames Britain, Britain blames France. The truth is that both governments are engaging in a blame game while children drown off our coastline.

“It’s just simply unconscionable and any responsible government on either side of the Channel would set aside those differences and work together to deal with what is a collective problem that will only be solved together.”

Wednesday’s tragedy claimed 27 lives, said to have included an expectant mother, children and a 24-year-old Kurdish woman from northern Iraq trying to reunite with her fiance.

It was the highest death toll on record in the current crisis.

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