Frontex deploys a plane to track migrants on the canal

In the fight against the smuggling networks that send migrants down the perilous Channel route, the European Union countries involved – Belgium included – are stepping up their cooperation. At the same time, the European border security agency Frontex will deploy a plane to check the channel between France and the UK for the crossing of migrants.

Emergency consultations took place on Sunday in the northern French port of Calais after 27 migrants drowned in the Channel last week. Our country represented by Minister of Interior Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) and Minister of State for Asylum and Migration Sami Mahdi (CD&V). Germany, the Netherlands, the European Commission, the EU agencies Frontex and Europol were also present.

The participating countries are obligated to expand the scope of cooperation among them. As far as their police services are concerned, they will, among other things, improve the exchange of intelligence and carry out border control operations together. The judicial authorities are also working to increase their cooperation. Countries want to make it more difficult for smugglers to obtain boats and other equipment to send migrants to the waters.

Frontex plane

At the same time, “the resources and expertise of European agencies will be fully utilized.” Frontex will be present in the Channel and the North Sea, including through airborne surveillance. According to French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, a patrol aircraft will be deployed as early as December 1. This aircraft will fly over the region “day and night”, from France to the Netherlands.

Europol will also support the member states. EU countries say they will continue their negotiations on the migration and asylum pact, with a focus on strengthening external border controls. A search is underway for better cooperation with third countries – from which the migrants come – to restore their populations.

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Britons must rethink the immigration paradigm

British Home Secretary Priti Patel was also supposed to take part in the meeting, but her invitation was withdrawn after a diplomatic incident with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In their closing statement on Sunday, attendees acknowledged that Brexit has created challenges and a ‘new legal reality’ in the area of ​​asylum and immigration – which is why London must also remain engaged in addressing the canal route. “Improving cooperation with the United Kingdom is essential,” it said.

At the closing press conference, Foreign Minister Mehdi said the British should rethink their immigration model. “The country where you can live without identity documents is attractive of course.” As far as Europe is concerned, the entire migration model must be reconsidered if structural solutions to the canal route are to be found. “Immigrants are not only leaving from France or Belgium,” he said.

Megan Vasquez

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