British taxpayers are to fork out up to £80 million to pay private security firms to guard ports in northern France in a bid to halt illegal immigration.
The Home Office is hoping to award contracts to firms to search lorries and act as “custody officers” to hold migrants who have been caught trying to enter Britain.
The private guards will be expected to beef up security Calais, Dunkirk and the Channel Tunnel terminal, which have seen hundreds of migrants trying to stow away in an attempt to reach the UK.
The successful bidder will have to provide “40 authorised search officers, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year” at these sites.
In a sign of the scale of the migrant crisis, the contract could be worth 10 times what it was when it last came up for tender in 2011.
It also comes just weeks after the government announced it was spending a further £2 million of taxpayers’ money on building a wall to help keep out Calais migrants.
Charlie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover, told the Mail that French authorities should do more to solve the crisis at Calais.
“It is essential we have maximum border security at Calais to protect tourists and truckers, but the priority must be to make sure the Jungle is dismantled – we have to tackle the causes of the crisis,” he said. “Obviously there is an arrangement where we assist with security at Calais, but the French should also be contributing.
“We need more security at Dover too to stop guns, weapons and people being smuggled, but we don’t get a contribution from France for that.”
His colleague Peter Bone also voiced scepticism over French efforts to help: “I wonder how much French taxpayers are paying the UK for having to clear up their mess when illegal immigrants get into the UK. Not a fat lot, I suspect.”
* * *