PARIS (Reuters) – Frontex has deployed a plane to support French and Belgian authorities trying to spot illegal boat crossing activity, a week after 27 migrants drowned when their dinghy deflated in the Channel, the European Union’s joint frontier force said.
In a statement, Frontex said the plane, provided by Denmark had landed in Lille, northern France, adding the aircraft was equipped with modern sensors and radar to support land and sea border control.
The deployment was decided during a meeting on Sunday in Calais between French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and some of his European counterparts, an event to which British Interior Minister Priti Patel had been disinvited following a letter from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson letter that angered Paris.
France and Britain are at loggerheads over post-Brexit trading rules and fishing rights and last week relations soured further after 27 people died trying to cross the Channel.
“The evolution of the situation in the Channel is a matter of concern. Upon the request from member States, Frontex deployed a plane in France to support them with aerial surveillance in just three days,” Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri said.
“We are starting with one plane, but we stand ready to reinforce our support if needed.”
The aim of the operation on the coastline is to prevent the rising number of sea crossings.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Christian Lowe and Barbara Lewis)