UK Border Force officers have begun patrolling French beaches in co-operation with local personnel for the first time in a bid to halt the flow of migrants crossing the English Channel, according to reports.
The first joint patrol took place just before Christmas after months of negotiations between UK and French officials, the Daily Telegraph states.
The co-operative effort aims to grant UK officers greater real-time intelligence of people-smuggling activity, tactics and migrant movements.
However, the UK officers embedded in the French patrols are “observers” only, meaning they will have no rights to exercise powers such as arresting someone for a criminal act.
It comes as the former head of UK Border Force Tony Smith called on ministers to get tougher with Channel migrants – saying: “We really need to start removing people from our territory.”
He told GB News that the crisis would get worse in 2023, and said home secretary Suella Braverman needs to introduce a “fast-track removal process” to get a grip on the problem.
“I don’t think we’ve peaked, I’m afraid,” said Mr Smith. “I think this may continue if we can’t start showing some results, which means sending people back somewhere.”
Rishi Sunak has promised to bring in legislation in 2023 to make it “unambiguously clear that if you enter the UK illegally, you should not be able to remain here”.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed a record 45,756 migrants crossed the Channel to the UK in 2022.
The last crossings of the year took place on Christmas Day when 90 people made the journey from France in two boats.
The provisional annual total for 2022 is a record and is 60% up from 28,526 in 2021, but it is lower than the 60,000 that Home Office officials previously estimated could make the journey.
Over the last 12 months, politicians have made a series of attempts to get a grip on the migrant crisis amid a tumultuous period which saw three prime ministers and three home secretaries.
Ms Braverman told of her “dream” of seeing the government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda succeed after she was appointed home secretary – a policy that High Court judges ruled is lawful but has so far been stalled by legal action.
Since the deal was signed in April by her predecessor Priti Patel, 40,460 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel.
The number of migrants crossing the Channel has steadily increased since 299 people were detected in 2018. There were 1,843 crossings recorded in 2019 and 8,466 in 2020, according to the Home Office.
August last year was the highest month on record for crossings when 8,631 people arrived in the UK. August 22 saw a record 1,295 migrants crossing in a single day on 27 boats.
The number of arrivals began to fall towards the end of 2022, which could reflect seasonal changes as a result of the weather.
In December 1,745 people made the journey – slightly fewer than the 1,770 recorded in the last month of 2021.
The MoD said its data is taken from “live operational systems” and is subject to change, “including reduction”.
A government spokesperson said: “The global migration crisis is causing an unprecedented strain on our asylum system.
“Nobody should put their lives at risk by taking dangerous and illegal journeys. We will go further to tackle the gangs driving this, using every tool at our disposal to deter illegal migration and disrupt the business model of people smugglers.”