Paris, Jan 4 (AFP) The French government announced an "action plan" Friday to counter attempts by migrants to cross the Channel to Britain by sea, which will include an increase in coastguard patrols and ramped up surveillance in ports.
"This plan should enable us to end these crossings," the French statement said, adding that they were "not only illegal but also extremely dangerous.
"It's in our interest, as well as the United Kingdom's, to do everything to prevent new networks (of people smugglers) developing which would likely attract irregular migrants to our shores again," it added.
A British navy ship was patrolling the Channel on Friday in addition to other French and British coastguard boats which watch over the 21 miles (33 kilometres) of sea that separate France and Britain at its narrowest point.
The promise of extra patrols and police checks in ports aimed at stopping migrants trying to cross the Channel contradicts an earlier statement on Friday by French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux.
Griveaux told a news conference that "there is no requirement to increase any further the resources there which are working very well and are proving their worth."
He downplayed the severity of what British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has termed a "major incident" by comparing the number of arrivals in Britain to the number of people crossing the Mediterranean by sea.
"We are not talking about the same level at all," Griveaux said.
A total of 504 people, the vast majority in the last two months, attempted to cross the Channel to Britain in 2018, with 276 successful in reaching British waters, according to the latest figures from the French interior ministry.
Data from the UN's refugee agency showed that 55,756 people crossed the Mediterranean to Spain in 2018. (AFP) SCY
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