France and Britain sign new agreement to prevent migrants from crossing the Channel

France and Britain sign new agreement to prevent migrants from crossing the Channel


France and the UK signed a new deal on Monday to work together to stop migrants crossing the Channel to England in small boats, a source of major bilateral tensions.

Under the deal, Britain will pay France 72.2 million euros ($74.5 million) in 2022-2023 to allow Paris to increase the number of security forces patrolling its northern beaches by 40 percent, said the French Ministry of the Interior.

That means around 350 additional members of the French security forces will patrol under the deal signed in Paris by French Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin and British counterpart Suella Braverman.

London and Paris also pledged to deploy technological and human resources on the French coast to better detect, monitor and intercept boats.

They want to collect and use information, especially from intercepted migrants, to better break up smuggling networks and deter border crossings.

For the first time, teams of observers will be deployed on both sides of the Channel to “increase common understanding”, improve debriefing of migrants and increase information sharing.

The deal comes after the UK government said on Sunday more than 40,000 migrants have crossed the Channel to Britain so far this year, a new record.

The preliminary total for this year is 40,885, most of them Albanians, Iranians and Afghans — significantly up from last year’s 28,561, the Defense Ministry said.

– thawing in ties –

The deal reflected a new atmosphere in France-Britain relations since British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took the helm after years of acrimony under his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

Migration has been a particular bone of contention as London accused Paris of not doing enough to stop migrants crossing the Channel, accusations fiercely denied by French officials.

Sunak and President Emmanuel Macron met for a cordial first meeting on the sidelines of the UN climate summit in Egypt last week and will meet again this week at the G20 summit in Indonesia.

They plan to hold a bilateral summit on defense in early 2023.

About 972 people were spotted making the dangerous crossing in 22 boats on Saturday, the British government said.

The numbers have been increasing for years. About 299 were spotted during the 2018 crossing; 1,843 in 2019; and 8,466 in 2020 according to UK figures.

The rising numbers have led to a standstill in asylum applications and increased accommodation costs, estimated by the UK government at £6.8 million ($7.8 million) a day, straining local services and fueling public anger.

But refugee rights groups have accused the government of being callous and chaotic after unsanitary conditions developed at an overcrowded asylum processing center in Manston, south-east England.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and Britain’s James Cleverly said in a joint statement on Friday, “stressed the urgency of addressing all forms of illegal migration, including small boat crossings, and addressing their root causes.

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