Europe

MI6 terror spies now vet Channel migrants

Migration: Alp Mehmet hits out at 'absurd' strategy

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It follows months of haggling after senior Home Office officials tried to block MI6 involvement, on the grounds that it “wasn’t necessary”. Officers from MI6’s domestic counterpart MI5 are already based alongside Border Force officials at the ever-sprawling complex of cabins and tents which form the official reception centre in Dover. With a steady stream of cross-Channel migrants, MI6 first made its approach to assist in security vetting of asylum applicants in the spring.

However, the arrival of more than 800 migrants on August 24 – a record for a single day – saw MI6 try again.

It argued its watchlists, focusing on foreign threats, should be seen as an essential element in weeding out those who could pose a threat to Britain’s security. And this time MI6 head Richard Moore refused to take no for an answer.

After PM Boris Johnson intervened permission was finally given for MI6 to place two officers at the centre.

The move has already borne fruit, with the expulsion of two
foreign nationals to Bremen where they were wanted by Germany’s domestic federal intelligence agency, the BfV.

Though intelligence sources will not reveal why they were wanted, they confirmed the pair had made their way overland to Germany before joining migrants in France, and then made their way across the Channel in a boat with 30 people.

Last night a Whitehall source said: “We persuaded the Home Office to allow our overseas intelligence people entry to the processing centre. “The small team has already shown that its list of individuals – who we know will attempt entry to do us harm – is needed.”

So far this year at least 17,000 people have crossed in small boats, compared to fewer than 8,500 last year.

The figure for September alone was 4,638 people, crossing the Channel in 160 boats.

Rising tensions between London and Paris over the situation saw Home Secretary Priti Patel threaten to withhold a payment of £54million to France unless more efforts were made to stop the crossings.

But on Thursday General Frantz Tavart, the French commander responsible for patrols along the French coastline, said he would call off nightly patrols in Calais by around 130 Gendarmes if the Home Secretary carried out her threat.

Last night Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said: “With so many [migrants] arriving there must be a concern that criminals or even terrorists are hiding among them.

“Our priority must remain to prevent illegal migrants from leaving the French coast in the first place.

“There is no doubt intelligence from MI6 is an asset to keep our country safer and more secure.”

 French police shot migrants with rubber bullets to stop them crossing the Channel, it emerged yesterday.

The shooting happened on September 22 as a group of 40 migrants prepared to leave Dunkirk.

One was left with a fractured leg and another with a broken hand. It is the first known case of gun tactics being used to stop a crossing.

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