The Bailiwicks: A back door to Britain?


Ahead of her special pieces on the islands' reaction to the refugee crisis, Jess Dunsdon shares her experiences from the investigation.

You can see the first of her two part series on ITV Channel at 6pm tonight.

They say don't believe all you read in newspapers. And when it comes to the migrant crisis, that's certainly true.

Headlines of "People smugglers and migrants target Jersey as back door into Britain" and "Migrants on the frontline to reach Britain: Refugee crisis spreads across Normandy coast" have appeared in the Daily Express and The Sun.

Read the facts and you'll find this is based on a couple of boats which attempted to make the 15 mile journey to Jersey, but were stopped before they even got in the water.

Hardly a new frontline. Indeed as the Mayor of Barneville-Carteret, Pierre Gehanne, told me: "It is how you British say, a tea cup full of storm." Not quite how we say it, but you get his point.

Jess meets the Mayor of Barneville-Carteret

The fact is most migrants who've fled war-torn countries have their sights set on Britain, where they may have family, where there's infrastructure in place to deal with asylum claims and where there's more opportunity to build a new life.

Having spoken to all the major Normandy port towns, there are no migrant camps along their coast. Even since the partial demolition of the Calais jungle, the movement of migrants remains in the North, around Ferry terminals like Calais, Dieppe, Caen and Cherbourg.

Refugees climb into a lorry

That said, the migrant crisis is constantly evolving and it is certainly worth questioning the preparedness of the Bailiwicks.

The incidents back in March, when two separate boats attempted to reach the Channel Islands, have moved the issue of border patrols and emergency planning up the agenda.

The islands work even closer with the French to share intelligence about people trafficking operations and the risk of clandestine crossings.

Guernsey's Border Agency and Jersey's Customs & Immigration have since strengthened the islands' agreement with the French which says if any migrants land on Bailiwick territory, they will be returned.

Customs and Immigrations carrying out border checks

Plus there's a multi-agency response plan involving the Health Department, Police, Coastguard and charities to treat migrants humanely before they're sent back to France.

But even though there's a plan in place, the authorities doubt they'll need to use it.

Dave Nurse, Head of Jersey Customs and Immigration

First of all, there's no intelligence to suggest migrants or people traffickers are currently targeting the islands. Secondly, even if they were, the French are controlling their borders so tightly that they'd be unlikely to leave, and thirdly, even if they did get to Jersey or Guernsey, they'd be returned in all likelihood within 24 hours.

– Dave Nurse, Head of Jersey's Customs and Immigration Department

Far from being a back door to Britain, the Bailiwicks seem to be a closed door.

Especially when it comes to asylum, but more from me on that tomorrow.

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