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UK and France sign agreement to curb number of migrants crossing English Channel in boats

The deal will see more police deployed in the route.

A group of people thought to be migrants arrive in Kent (file photo)
A group of people thought to be migrants arrive in Kent (file photo)
Image: PA Images

BRITAIN AND France have signed a new agreement aimed at curbing the number of migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin said they wanted to make the route used by more than 8,000 people this year unviable.

They agreed to double the number of French police patrolling a 150km stretch of coastline targeted by people-smuggling networks.

However, the UK’s Home Office refused to say how many more officers would be deployed.

The announcement was criticised by a charity as an “extraordinary mark of failure” akin to “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”.

Amnesty International UK remarked that the deal was “profoundly disappointing”.

Patel and Darmanin also agreed, as part of the €31.4 million package, to enhance surveillance technology – with drones, radar equipment, cameras and optronic binoculars.

It is hoped the equipment will help the French deploy officers to the right places to detect migrants and stop them before they start their journey.

The agreement also includes steps to support migrants into accommodation in France, and measures to increase border security at ports in the north and west of the country.

It builds on measures previously agreed which the Home Office said had seen the proportion of crossings intercepted and stopped rise from 41% last year to 60% in recent weeks.

2.56841435 Priti Patel announced the agreement last night Source: PA Images

Patel said the new agreement with France will “make a difference” to the number of migrants crossing the Channel.

Speaking inside the Foreign Office following talks with her French counterpart, she said the number of migrants making the crossing had grown exponentially, in part due to good weather this year, and blamed trafficking gangs for “facilitating” dangerous journeys.

“We should not lose sight of the fact that illegal migration exists for one fundamental reason: that is because there are criminal gangs – people traffickers – facilitating this trade,” Patel said.

She added that the cost charged by traffickers has gone down so “people are putting their lives at risk”.

Despite deteriorating weather conditions, the UK’s Border Force has continued to deal with migrants making the dangerous trip from northern France.

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The number crossing aboard small boats has significantly risen this year, with more than 8,000 reaching the UK – compared with 1,835 in 2019, according to data analysed by the PA news agency.

This is despite the Home Secretary’s vow last year to make such journeys an “infrequent phenomenon”.

A recent report chronicled nearly 300 border-related deaths in and around the English Channel since 1999.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme director at Amnesty International UK, said: “It is profoundly disappointing that yet again these two governments have ignored the needs and rights of people who ought to be at the heart of their response.

“Women, men and children make dangerous journeys across the Channel because there are no safe options provided for them – to either reunite with family in this country, or access an effective asylum system, to which they are entitled.

“The UK government must share responsibility for providing sanctuary with its nearest neighbour.

“This continued focus on simply shutting down routes to the UK is blinkered and reckless – it does nothing but increase the risks that people, who have already endured incredible hardship, are compelled to take.”

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