France to deploy 76 drones to detect migrants attempting reaching England

France is set to deploy up to 76 surveillance cameras – on drones, helicopters and an airplane – along its northern coast to detect migrants attempting to depart for England.

Authorities said last Thursday (September 7) that the cameras will monitor a 150-kilometre-long coastal strip up to five kilometres inland and are aimed at combatting human smuggling and irregular border crossings, as well as “help to people”.

“There is no less intrusive mechanism to achieve the same ends” of monitoring large areas where people gather, and migrant boats are launched near the beaches,” according to a decree issued by the French districts.

Nearly 80,000 migrants reached or tried to reach the UK by sea in 2022, according to official French figures, with many losing their lives in the attempt.

“Since 1990, 330 migrants have died trying to cross the Channel irregularly to reach Great Britain,” said the French news site ‘Voix du Nord’.

In November 2021, a deadly shipwreck claimed at least 27 lives, and on August 12 this year, six people died when their small boat capsized. Sixty people were rescued from the water by French and UK emergency crews.

In recent days and weeks, many people who fled North Africa and reached the Italian island of Lampedusa have got as far as the Susa Valley in northwest Italy, at the border with France.

Facilities for migrants here are overstretched: after the Terrasses Solidaires centre in Briançon had to close because it was too crowded, a tent city sprang up on the grounds of the St. Catherine parish church.

The Massi migrant centre in Oulx, a town on the Italian side of the border, is seeing about 200 people arriving each day. People often recharge their smartphones before taking the bus from Oulx station to Claviere and using mountain trails to try to cross into France.

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