Today, the United Kingdom and France signed a new agreement to reduce the number of migrants crossing the Channel by boat. Among other things, there will be more police patrols on the northern French beaches. The crossing of boats across the canal was a regular source of friction between the two countries.
The British government agreed to pay France 72.2 million euros in 2022-2023. This is nearly 10 million more than under the current deal. In contrast, France increases the presence of security forces at coastal access points by 40 percent. This includes an additional 350 gendarmes and police on the beaches of Calais and Dunkirk and an increased deployment of drones and night vision equipment.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and his British counterpart Soella Braverman signed the agreement in Paris. The agreement contains proposals to combat crime along migration routes. For example, both countries will collect information from intercepted migrants to help dismantle smuggling networks. No specific target for intercepting the boats has been identified.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the deal would see a “40 percent increase in patrols” as well as “for the first time, British officials are involved in French operations”. He described the deal as “the basis for stronger cooperation in the coming months.”
Significant increase in the number of boat passengers
The UK receives fewer asylum seekers than many European countries, including Italy, France and Germany, but thousands of migrants travel to northern France hoping to cross the Channel. Some want to go to the UK because they have friends or family there, others because of the English language or because they think it is easy to find work there.
The number of migrants attempting the crossing in small boats has increased sharply in recent years. This year, more than 40,000 people have taken this perilous journey; Last year there were 28,000 and in 2020 there were 8,500. In November 2021, another 27 people died in the canal when their boat capsized. According to the UK, more than 30,000 illegal crossing attempts from France have been prevented since the beginning of this year. The British government has recently come under fire for overcrowding in shelters and temporary accommodation in the south of England. It would have failed to process asylum applications quickly.
Of all the people who tried to reach the UK via the Channel between May and September, 42 percent came from Albania, according to figures released by the British government earlier this month. Just over 11,000 Albanians arrived in the UK in those five months. In 2020, there were 815 people. The new agreement also provides for a new task force “aimed at reversing the recent increase in Albanians and organized crime groups profiting from illegal immigration routes into Western Europe and the UK”.
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