France rebuffs UK’s drone offer to stop Channel migrants leaving beaches in first place
France is rebuffing Britain’s offer of a hi-tech surveillance drone to help stop Channel migrants leaving its beaches despite the craft’s success in smashing a people smuggling gang. Dan O’Mahoney, the Home Office’s new migrants commander, met with French ambassador Catherine Colonna yesterday to urge her Government to step up its surveillance effort by using the UK’s Tekever AR5 drone which can stay in the air for 20 hours. The Home Office believes preventing the migrants leaving the coast is critical and follows British criticism of France’s refusal to turn back migrants at sea and instead shepherd them into British waters. Yesterday (Tues) saw at least 300 more migrants in 27 boats cross the Channel, the second biggest one-day total on record. The current record for small boat arrivals is 416, set on September 2. “We can see these boats coming across every day. Maybe they should get into a position of accepting extra help. Although they have not refused, they have still not accepted,” said a source. The Tekever AR5 fixed wing drone can cruise at 60 mph at heights of hundreds of metres with cameras and radar, and is understood to have played a key role in helping track and arrest a Channel migrant trafficking gang. It has been deployed by the coastguard alongside the Ministry of Defence’s Watchkeeper drone, which can reach 16,000 feet with a range of 100 miles and was used by the Army in Afghanistan. During yesterday’s meeting Mr O’Mahoney and Ms Colonna discussed French and UK co-operation including a further operational plan which is nearing agreement. Mr O’Mahoney reiterated the urgency to deploy new, sophisticated technology, surveillance and aerial support to stop the boats leaving French shores in the first place. Yesterday the Home Office deported six Channel migrants on a flight to Germany and six foreign offenders to Lithuania after two previous attempts to return failed Channel asylum seekers were thwarted by human rights lawyers. More than 6,400 people have crossed the Channel in this way in 2020, more than three times as many as last year.