Home Office prepared to pay up to £80m for French port security

Migrants walk towards Eurotunnel terminal in Coquelles Image copyright AFP
Image caption The successful bidder will be responsible for searches at sites including the Eurotunnel terminal in Coquelles

The Home Office is preparing to pay a private company up to £80m to provide security at ports in northern France.

The "maximum" level the Home Office has set aside for the new three-year contract is 10 times what was agreed when it was last advertised in 2011.

The department placed an advert in July inviting applications for the contract.

The successful bidder, which has yet to be announced, will be responsible for searches at Calais and Dunkirk ports, and Eurotunnel's terminal at Coquelles.

The current contract was awarded to Eamus Cork Solutions in 2011, with a value of £8m for three years, and was later extended for a further two years.

The Home Office said the scale of that service had increased over the contract period to meet "operational needs".

It said it was now looking for an "expanded level of service", but expected the new contract to be for "significantly less" than £80m.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The Jungle camp in Calais has become the focal point of France's refugee crisis

The Home Office says the new agreement has an "estimated value" of £80m, excluding VAT, though officials say that is a "maximum" amount and no final figure has been decided.

According to details of the procurement, the contractor would have to provide 40 authorised search officers 24 hours a day for 365 days a year.

Three of the officers must also be trained as detainee custody officers.

Duties would include searching freight, tourist vehicles and passengers heading to the UK, and escorting and detaining people for up to three hours.

The contract is for three years, with the possibility of an extension for one or two more years.

'Mutual commitment'

The Jungle camp in Calais has become the focal point of France's refugee crisis, with about 7,000 people living there.

Last month the UK and France pledged to work together and "step up" moves to improve the migrant situation in Calais.

The two countries said they would resolve the situation through "close co-operation" and vowed to further secure the port and tunnel.

Debate over border controls was a key issue in the EU referendum campaign, with David Cameron claiming the Jungle could move to England if the UK left the EU.

But just weeks after the warning, the then-PM and French President Francois Hollande agreed a "mutual commitment" to keep it in place. After the Brexit vote, new PM Theresa May and Mr Hollande reiterated the commitment.

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