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UPDATE 1-UK steps up plans to tackle migrant Channel crossings with new commander

Sun, 9th Aug 2020 15:55

* Britain creates new role to tackle migrant crossings

* Calm sea has encouraged crossings

* France and Britain to discuss cooperation next week
(Adds interior ministry statement, comment from French
official, background)

LONDON, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Britain appointed a commander on
Sunday to lead its response to illegal small boat crossings
across the Channel and said it was exploring tougher action
after a spate of migrant arrivals.

Taking advantage of calm sea conditions, hundreds of people
including children and pregnant women have made the dangerous
crossing in recent days in rubber dinghies and small vessels.

On Sunday, the UK's Border Force said it was dealing with
"ongoing small boat incidents" off the coast of Kent in southern
England, 33-km (21-mile) across the Channel from France.

Interior minister Priti Patel said the UK was working to
make the Channel route "unviable" and named Dan O'Mahoney, a
former Royal Marine, as Britain's Clandestine Channel Threat
Commander, creating a new role to deal with the issue.

He will "urgently explore tougher action in France", a
statement from the interior ministry said on Sunday, referring
to plans to intercept boats at sea and try to return them.

The government asked Britain's armed forces to help deal
with the boats carrying migrants on Saturday, when the interior
ministry said 15 vessels were brought to the UK carrying 151
migrants.

UK and French officials are set to hold talks next week and
Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper said France was set to ask
Britain to pay 30 million pounds ($40 million) to bolster its
policing of the maritime border in the Channel.

A French interior ministry spokesman neither confirmed nor
denied the report.

"There will be discussions this week to continue the
strengthening of bilateral cooperation in the fight against
illegal crossings of the English Channel,” the spokesman said.

O'Mahoney said he wanted to focus on ending the "heinous
crime" of people smuggling across the Channel. He has previously
worked as director of the UK's Joint Maritime Security Centre
and held a senior position at the National Crime Agency.
($1 = 0.7668 pounds)
(Reporting by Sarah Young, additional reporting by Richard
Lough in Paris
Editing by Gareth Jones and Philippa Fletcher)

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