Priti Patel sets up high-tech command centre in war on people smugglers


A new command centre aimed at catching people smugglers ferrying migrants across the English Channel has been set up by Priti Patel.  

The high-tech centre, which will be situated at a secret location in Dover, Kent, will see the British authorities collaborate with law enforcement in Calais to carry out increased air, land and sea surveillance.

The move comes after the Home Secretary signed a new deal with France at the end of November that pledged to double patrols along a 90-mile stretch of French coastline in an effort to detect people smuggling gangs.    

The command headquarters will be lead by the government’s small boats commander Dan O’Mahoney who was appointed to collaborate with the French to tackle Channel crossings in August last year.  

Priti Patel has set up a new command hub in Dover to carry out increased air, land and sea surveillance across the English Channel

The command centre, which will see the British authorities collaborate with law enforcement in Calais, will be lead by the government's small boats commander Dan O'Mahoney (left with the Home Secretary)

The command centre, which will see the British authorities collaborate with law enforcement in Calais, will be lead by the government’s small boats commander Dan O’Mahoney (left with the Home Secretary)

Migrants arrive in Dover today after being rescued by Border Force officials along the English Channel

Migrants arrive in Dover today after being rescued by Border Force officials along the English Channel

Mr O’Mahoney said: ‘Significant steps were taken last year, including increased surveillance and more patrols on beaches, which have made crossing the Channel in this dangerous and unnecessary way harder than ever.

‘Improved intelligence sharing has meant that the French prevented more than 6,000 attempts last year, but we know that more needs to be done.

‘By setting up the new command cell we are making the UK’s and French law enforcement response more agile than it has ever been. 

‘It will ensure we have the right capability in the right place at the right time to stop boats from leaving French beaches and to deal with people who do make it into the water, protecting lives and bringing the criminals responsible to justice.’ 

The move, which forms part of an enhanced Government operation under the codename Altair, comes as figures revealed that 8,417 migrants made the treacherous journey on small boats and dinghies to reach the UK’s shores in 2020.   

Earlier today 20 migrants arrived in Dover after being picked up on small boats by Border Force along the English Channel in two separate incidents, the Home Office said. 

The scenes came just a day after Border Force stopped a boat ferrying up to 35 migrants towards the Sussex coast.

Lifeboats were launched yesterday afternoon to rescue the migrants from a boat, which is believed to have been carrying children and five injured people. 

A Border Force team escort the migrants ashore after they are rescued along the English Channel this morning

A Border Force team escort the migrants ashore after they are rescued along the English Channel this morning

A migrant wears a life jacket as they are brought ashore by officials in Dover, Kent, on Sunday morning

A migrant wears a life jacket as they are brought ashore by officials in Dover, Kent, on Sunday morning 

A group of migrants are brought ashore by Border Force Officials in Dover after they are spotted along the English Channel

A group of migrants are brought ashore by Border Force Officials in Dover after they are spotted along the English Channel

The Home Office said 20 migrants arrived in Dover after being rescued by teams in two separate incidents

The Home Office said 20 migrants arrived in Dover after being rescued by teams in two separate incidents

A person is brought ashore by Border Force officials

A migrant is brought ashore

Migrants are brought ashore by Border Force officials after making the dangerous crossing this morning

Figures revealed that 8,417 migrants made the treacherous journey on small boats and dinghies to reach the UK's shores in 2020. Pictured: Rescue teams bring a group of migrants ashore on Dover

Figures revealed that 8,417 migrants made the treacherous journey on small boats and dinghies to reach the UK’s shores in 2020. Pictured: Rescue teams bring a group of migrants ashore on Dover

A lifeboat carries a group of migrants in life jackets to the shore in Dover today

A lifeboat carries a group of migrants in life jackets to the shore in Dover today

A person is escorted by a Border Force official

A migrant is escorted by an official

A migrant is escorted by a Border Force official after disembarking a lifeboat this morning

Lifeboats were launched yesterday afternoon to rescue the migrants from a boat, which is believed to have been carrying children and five injured people.

Teams of coastguards and RNLI Lifeboats from Eastbourne and Newhaven, as well as Bexhill, Eastbourne and Langdon Battery Coastguard Rescue Teams were called to the rescue mission at around 12:45pm.

They received reports of a vessel ‘with approximately 30 people on board’ in difficulty about 23 miles south of Beachy Head. 

HM Coastguard confirmed yesterday to the BBC that it was ‘coordinating a search and rescue response’ after receiving a report that the ‘with approximately 30 people on board was in difficulty’.

The organisation said it was ‘concerned with preservation of life, rescuing those in trouble and bringing them safely back to shore, where they will be handed over to the relevant partner emergency services or authorities’. 

At the Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne, East Sussex, migrants were pictured arrived, including children and five who were reportedly injured. 

Emergency service teams – including lifeguards and police offers – were seen helping people ashore, including children wrapped in blankets being carried to safety.

Sussex Police told The Argus that Border Force were at the scene, and several people have been detained. 

Rescue teams pick up migrants making the treacherous journey along the English Channel

Rescue teams pick up migrants making the treacherous journey along the English Channel 

A migrant is brought ashore by rescue teams

Border Force officials rescue a group of migrants

The migrants arrive in Dover after being picked up on small boats by Border Force 

Migrants arrive at the Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne, East Sussex on Saturday, after a rescue operation was launched to save a boat 'in difficulty'

Migrants arrive at the Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne, East Sussex on Saturday, after a rescue operation was launched to save a boat ‘in difficulty’

Emergency services received reports of a vessel 'with approximately 30 people on board' in difficulty about 23 miles south of Beachy Head. Pictured: A person is helped ashore

Emergency services received reports of a vessel ‘with approximately 30 people on board’ in difficulty about 23 miles south of Beachy Head. Pictured: A person is helped ashore

Pictured: A young migrant is carried by police officer. Teams of coastguards and RNLI Lifeboats from Eastbourne and Newhaven, as well as Bexhill, Eastbourne and Langdon Battery Coastguard Rescue Teamswere called to the rescue mission at around 12:45pm

Pictured: A young migrant is carried by police officer. Teams of coastguards and RNLI Lifeboats from Eastbourne and Newhaven, as well as Bexhill, Eastbourne and Langdon Battery Coastguard Rescue Teamswere called to the rescue mission at around 12:45pm

On Saturday afternoon police supported Border Force staff in receiving a number of people suspected of not having authority to enter the UK, who had been on a vessel towed safely by the RNLI into Sovereign Harbour at Eastbourne,’ A spokesman for the force told the news outlet. 

‘Those detained are being taken into custody and care by Border Force for further enquiries.’ 

Facilities at the harbour were being made ready to bring the people ashore earlier today following the emergency call.

In its full statement to the MailOnline, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency said: ‘HM Coastguard has been coordinating a search and rescue response to an incident 23 miles south of Beachy Head.

‘A report was received just after midday that a vessel with approximately 30 people on board was in difficulty. We sent Eastbourne and Newhaven RNLI lifeboats, and Bexhill, Eastbourne and Langdon Battery Coastguard Rescue Teams.

‘HM Coastguard is only concerned with preservation of life, rescuing those in trouble and bringing them safely back to shore, where they will be handed over to the relevant partner emergency services or authorities.’ 

The Home Office told the MailOnline that UK authorities dealt with six incidents involving 103 people on Saturday, while French authorities prevented three boats with 29 people on board entering UK waters.

The department said it would comment later on the specific incident.

Pictured: Two young migrants are escorted by lifeguards after disembarking a lifeboat

35 migrants arrived including 5 who were injured. It comes after the first migrants crossed The Channel last week after the UK’s exit from the EU

Though Britain's new trade deal came into force on January 1, and new laws on asylum seekers along with it, the rules remain largely the same for those attempting the crossing

Though Britain’s new trade deal came into force on January 1, and new laws on asylum seekers along with it, the rules remain largely the same for those attempting the crossing

HM Coastguard confirmed earlier today to the BBC that it was 'coordinating a search and rescue response' after receiving a report that the 'with approximately 30 people on board was in difficulty'. Pictured: An officer carries a person to shore

HM Coastguard confirmed earlier today to the BBC that it was ‘coordinating a search and rescue response’ after receiving a report that the ‘with approximately 30 people on board was in difficulty’. Pictured: An officer carries a person to shore

One boat carrying around 10 people was intercepted and brought into Dover Marina, Kent, shortly before 5am on January 2. Pictured: Emergency workers escort young migrants

One boat carrying around 10 people was intercepted and brought into Dover Marina, Kent, shortly before 5am on January 2. Pictured: Emergency workers escort young migrants

The crossing came after the first migrants crossed The Channel last week after the UK’s exit from the EU.

One boat carrying around ten people was intercepted and brought into Dover Marina, Kent, shortly before 5am on January 2. 

Border Force towed the blue and white rigid hulled inflatable boat into the harbour before escorting the migrants up the gangway to be processed. 

In 2020, four times as many migrants made the dangerous crossing than in 2019, official figures show, with more than 8,400 making the dangerous crossing, up from 1,844 the previous year.  

Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts Chris Philp said: ‘People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and not risk their lives making a dangerous and illegally-facilitated crossing.

‘The Government has taken substantial steps to tackle this unacceptable problem of illegal migration. These efforts have contributed to a 70% reduction in crossings since September on fair-weather days, by direct intervention on the French beaches. This means that we have been able to change the patterns of crossings that resulted in a surge of small boat activity 2018 and 2019.

‘Post EU exit, this Government will work to fix the broken asylum system. Legislative changes to the law are being made to enable cases to be treated as inadmissible if they have travelled through a safe country. The Government will continue to seek to return those with no legal right to remain in the UK.’ 

Pictured: A lifeguard helps a young migrant down a flight of steps off a lifeboat on Saturday

Pictured: A lifeguard helps a young migrant down a flight of steps off a lifeboat on Saturday

Home Secretary Priti Patel signed a new deal with France at the end of November, after 757 people crossed, in an attempt to prevent crossings from disembarking from their shores

Home Secretary Priti Patel signed a new deal with France at the end of November, after 757 people crossed, in an attempt to prevent crossings from disembarking from their shores

Groups of migrants attempted the perilous crossing either side of the end of the Brexit transition deal. 

One group were rescued and brought to Dover on New Year’s Eve and another were rescued by French officials on New Year’s Day. 

Though Britain’s new trade deal came into force on January 1, and new laws on asylum seekers along with it, the rules remain largely the same for those attempting the crossing.

Britain has said it will no longer accept asylum claims at sea, paving a way for those crossing The Channel to be returned to France.

But the UK will not be permitted to do that until an agreement with France is reached. 

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