Britain steps up border checks after Calais disruption

LONDON - Britain will increase screening of arrivals at Dover and create a task force to tackle people smugglers, officials said on Wednesday, as growing numbers of migrants step up efforts to cross the Channel.

The announcement came a day after severe transport disruption caused by striking French ferry workers and migrants in Calais boarding trucks and attempting to enter the Channel Tunnel to reach Britain.

"It is hugely regrettable that we've seen these incidents occurring as a result of industrial action in France," British immigration minister James Brokenshire told the BBC.

"We are putting additional resourcing into the port of Dover to enhance screenings and detections there so that we're looking at this on both sides of the Channel," he said.

There are currently around 3,000 migrants camped out in Calais -- a presence that is causing friction between Britain and France.

Britain will also create a task force of 90 people including investigators, border officers and prosecutors to try to disrupt gangs trafficking people hoping to reach Europe.

Members of the task force will be sent to Sicily where many of the migrants first arrive in Europe on boats from Libya, to Europol headquarters in The Hague and to north Africa itself.

"We have got to do more to break the link between getting on a boat in the Med and getting settlement in Europe," a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said.

"Otherwise these vast numbers will just keep on coming. That's why the government is setting up a dedicated law enforcement team to tackle organised immigration crime," the spokesman said.

Britain has deployed a warship in the Mediterranean to help rescue migrants and its communications spying agency GCHQ is gathering information about trafficking gangs.