Border force officer describes conditions migrants face in Channel
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And author Leigh Evans, chairman of the Facts4EU think tank, has said the revelation proved Mr Macron and his Government were simply playing “lip service” to tackling the problem. The statement, published on July 20 and signed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and French interior minister Gerald Darmanin, pledged to “deploy more wide-area surveillance technology and vehicles to further improve coverage of the coast of France and thus prevent crossing attempts, including via effective deployment of aerial surveillance.”
However, Facts4EU’s researchers discovered a French law introduced in January explicitly prohibiting the use of aerial drones, widely regarded as the best way of keeping tabs on people trying to cross the Channel, often risking their lives in flimsy dinghies in the process.
Mrs Patel signed off on a payment of £54million to France last month, money which it was understood would double police numbers along the French coast and provide for the “effective deployment of aerial surveillance”.
However, the drones edict has been in place since May 2020, and was renewed in stronger terms on January 12, Facts4EU’s report points out.
The official sanction applies to the agencies of Monsieur Darmanin’s own Interior Ministry – including the police and Gendarmerie who patrol the coast.
Last May, court cases began over the use of drones by French police in monitoring people who were violating Coronavirus laws banning the free movement of people within France.
The National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL), a privacy agency with state powers, then acted to order drone use be stopped by law enforcement.
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Further actions followed when it emerged French police were using drones to log people taking part in anti-lockdown demonstrations.
On January 12, CNIL officially ‘sanctioned’ Monsieur Darmanin’s Interior Ministry “for having unlawfully used drones equipped with cameras, in particular to monitor compliance with containment measures. It instructs the ministry to cease all drone flights until a regulatory framework authorises it”.
Crucially, the all-encompassing orders apply to all drones, including those on the northern French coast.
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Mr Evans told Express.co.uk: “The research from Facts4EU.Org lays bare the lip service which President Macron’s French government has been paying to the growing crisis of thousands of illegal migrants setting off from the shores of France in recent months.
“For the French to ban the use of the most effective way to patrol its coastal areas to catch people smugglers and illegal migrants – before they are escorted by the French navy into British waters – is simply unacceptable.
“Particularly when the Home Secretary Priti Patel has given them millions of taxpayers’ money to do just that.”
Unfortunately the simple fact is that the French are not doing their job
Mr Evans said: “Unfortunately the simple fact is that the French are not doing their job.”
Speaking on Wednesday, Clement Beaune, Mr Macron’s Europe Minister, even called for a new post-Brexit migration deal “so that we can expel, or direct a certain number of migrants to the UK so they can request asylum”, Mr Evans pointed out.
He added: “Monsieur Beaune bizarrely claimed that this was the UK’s responsibility, when he must know that under international law it is France’s responsibility to deal with illegal migrants on its own soil.”
David Jones, deputy chairman of the European Reform Group as well as the Tory MP for Clwyd West, told Express.co.uk: “To give M. Darmanin the benefit of the doubt, we must assume that the CNIL order had slipped his mind when he agreed to accept UK money in exchange for his country’s commitment to use drones to patrol the French coastline.
“Nevertheless, this must be a huge embarrassment to Mr Macron and his government.
“I’m sure he will want to dispel any suggestion that France used false pretences to obtain British hard cash and will now take immediate executive action to overrule the CNIL decision and put the drones in the sky as quickly as possible.”
Express.co.uk has contacted the Home Office for comment.
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