The migrant crisis in Europe has received a lot of media attention in the last couple of weeks, and as usual there has been a concerning amount of misreporting. There is no doubt that the turmoil in parts of the Middle East and North Africa is causing a significant movement of people into and across our continent. I believe that we have to maintain a balance between the need to control our borders and to support people in genuine need, which is why the spending of aid money to improve the large Syrian refugee camps along the borders of that troubled country is the right thing to do. We also have to recognise and tackle the network of organised crime and human trafficking that lies behind much of this.
The issue has been brought into stark relief with the problems at Calais and at the Channel a tunnel. While it is for the French to maintain security of their port, and to maintain public order on their soil, the UK continues to work closely with the French authorities on matters of security. The UK has committed £19 million towards bolstering security and infrastructure to tackle problems at the port, and £1.4 million is being directed towards the secure waiting zone for 230 lorries in Calais.. Further fencing and Border Force detection teams will be provided by the UK.
The UK has already been strengthening physical security at both the Calais port and the Channel Tunnel. Staffing levels have been increased, security patrols have been extended, £2 million has been invested in heartbeat scanners and wave sensor technology, and £1 million has been allocated for extra sniffer dogs to detect people hiding in lorries. Border Force has stepped up patrols by its fleet of cutters, and the UK agreed to provide £3 million for a range of security measures across the ports in northern France. £7 million has been agreed for increasing security at the Channel Tunnel railhead at Coquelles.
The Government is also working to discourage economic migrants and return those who have no right to asylum. Two hundred migrants every month are being returned who have no right to asylum and the UK is increasing communication campaigns to discourage migration by tackling the myths about life in Britain. The message is clear to economic migrants making the dangerous journey to Calais: our border is secure and there is no easy way into the UK. Those making the journey will be returned to their own country.
The Government’s actions to bolster security has seen a significant reduction in the number of migrant attempts to enter the Channel Tunnel. Furthermore, the Home Secretary and her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve announced last week the establishment of a new Command and Control Centre in Calais. The centre will combine the skills and expertise of British police, French police and Border Force to find and disrupt organised criminals who attempt to smuggle migrants illegally into Northern France and across the Channel. The UK will also work jointly to ensure that the organised criminal networks at the heart of this problem are dismantled, prosecutions are pursued, and perpetrators are punished.
This summer, I have been spending a lot of time talking to fellow residents, whether it is at one of my regular Summer Surgeries or on house visits. On a recent visit to the home of a good friend in Old Town, I was very concerned to hear that, like a number of other elderly people, she had been the victim of an attempted confidence trick when she answered the door to a couple of men who tried to charge her a lot of money for work that she hadn't asked to be done. My friend had the presence of mind to alert some of her neighbours, who involved the police. Happily, the criminals did not succeed on this occasion, but sadly there are other cases where older people have parted with large amounts of money as a result of trickery and pressure being placed upon them by unscrupulous people who think that they can get away with it.
I was delighted to hear that the police have been very supportive in this case and was also impressed to hear about the continuing work of the Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust who visited my friend at home, providing her with free security improvements. The Trust aims to improve the security of homes occupied by elderly people, reduce incidences of repeat burglary and re-victimisation, promote awareness of fire safety, detection and prevention, and offer reassurance and advice on crime reduction. I pay tribute to them for this excellent work.
This week, I hosted another advice surgery at Walcot Library and Community Shop in Sussex Square, which continues to work as a truly local enterprise raising funds that go back to the Walcot community. The regeneration of Sussex Square is proceeding at a pace, with the new shops nearing completion. It has been a long wait, but I welcome these much needed improvements. Please get in touch with my office on 01793 533393 if you would like to arrange a time to come and talk to me about a local or national issue.