More offshore patrols after migrants found

Mark Cockerham, head of the Jersey Customs and Immigration Service, said a number of joint patrols were being co-ordinated with Fisheries representatives around Jersey’s outlying reefs for ‘both migrant and Covid reasons’.

He said there was a ‘heightened awareness’ because of an incident last month in which French authorities encountered a broken-down vessel south-west of the Minquiers. Those on board were taken to St Malo and a man was subsequently arrested and accused of trying to smuggle 27 migrants into the Island. An investigation into a potential human-trafficking ring was started by French police soon after.

At the time, Customs officials said the service had ‘stepped up’ its activity . They described the attempted journey as ‘unusual’ for Jersey and did not think the vessel was trying to reach the Island.

The extra patrols follow a record number of cases of migrants attempting to cross the Channel from France to the south coast of England. In a single day earlier this month 475 people in 15 boats managed to reach the UK.

Mr Cockerham added: ‘Aside from the multi-agency response that would be actioned should an incident occur, we continue to engage with authorities both in the UK and France to get an up-to-date intelligence picture so that we can assess the risk and plan accordingly.’

In 2017, three Iranians were found to have reached the Island after travelling from the French coast to Bonne Nuit in a RIB. They were returned to France. The individual who arranged the crossing was subsequently convicted in a court in Rennes.

And a year later a Syrian asylum seeker came ashore at Anne Port in a dinghy. He was ultimately refused asylum in Jersey, despite claiming he was being hunted by ISIS terrorists.

Mr Cockerham said there was ‘no indication’ that the number of migrant incidents would increase this year. However, he warned that warmer weather could ‘mask’ the potential dangers involved with sea crossings.

‘We would also welcome and encourage any information from Islanders – particularly mariners and fishermen – to report any unusual activity to the Jersey or French coastguard,’ he added.

Mr Cockerham said that his department’s increased focus was ‘not limited’ to additional patrols.

‘Constant examination of the intelligence picture with UK and French authorities is a key component of our activity,’ he said.

Earlier this year the Island’s main patrol boat – Norman Le Brocq – returned to operations with Marine Resources after it was refitted and re-equipped in the UK at a cost of around £500,000.

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