London: Britain and France have opened a new centre in the border town of Calais, France, where many illegal immigrants from India and other parts of the world gather to try and make their way into Britain.
The Joint Operational Coordination Centre (JOCC) was opened by Immigration Minister Phil Woolas and the French Minister for Immigration, Eric Besson.
The JOCC was set up following the Evian Summit of G8 countries last July, and will allow greater intelligence sharing, a joint approach to border security, and inter-agency operations to counter illegal migration and break up international human trafficking rings.
The centre has already proved successful: joint operations have led to the arrest of two women who were attempting to traffic a girl to the UK for prostitution, and a truck driver intercepted with 36kg of tobacco.
Cooperation between Calais-based UK Border Agency officers and their French counterparts has created one of the strongest borders in the world.
In the last five years, officers have stopped around 61,000 individual attempts to enter the UK illegally. Woolas said: "JOCC is one of the best examples of joint national border control in the world. We are driving home the message that illegal migration will not be tolerated, and by working with France we have made our border stronger than ever".
He added: "The centre allows us to share intelligence and carry out joint operations. In 2009, officers working at our border controls in France searched over one million lorries and stopped 29,000 individual attempts to cross the channel illegally."
Officers from the UK Border Agency, Police Aux Frontiers (PAF), Douanes and the Calais Chamber of Investment and Commerce (CCIC) will work together at the centre.
At July's Evian summit, the UK committed GBP 15 million to pay for state-of-the-art technology as part of a pilot in Calais, which has boosted searches of vehicles and goods heading for Britain.
Last year, the UK Border Agency seized illegal drugs worth over GBP 237 million and stopped over 27,000 dangerous weapons - including firearms, stun guns and knives – from reaching Britain's streets.
First Published: Thursday, March 25, 2010, 13:13