Patel hailed the deal – the details of which have yet to be released – as a “new operational approach”.
This comes as the number of migrants trying to cross the Channel increased during the lockdown, with some embarking on the journey defying death by kayak and even wading.
French authorities prevented at least 45 migrants from crossing the Strait of Dover on Sunday, and more are believed to have been picked up in British waters.
A huge search and rescue operation was launched on Sunday as the Border Force and partner agencies responded to “a number of incidents” off the British coast.
Ms. Patel said: “I am in France today to see first hand the important work undertaken on this side of the Channel to combat the unacceptably high levels of small boats, alongside the efforts of the Border Force and the National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom.
“But despite all the measures taken by the police to date – intercepting boats, making arrests, sending people back to France and putting criminals behind bars – the numbers continue to rise.
“It just can’t go on. Today, I signed an agreement with the French to create a joint intelligence unit that will suppress the gangs behind this vile trafficking operation and I made my French counterpart understand the need to stop these illegal crossings for the benefit of our two countries. .
“It is the start of a new operational approach with the new French Minister of the Interior.”
It is unclear whether the new agreement includes measures to return migrants picked up in British waters to France.
In addition to meeting the new minister, Ms. Patel visited some of the migrant camps that the French have cleaned up.
Recent actions by French authorities in the region have resulted in the displacement of more than 500 people, according to reports.
On Sunday, a huge operation involving HM Coastguard, Kent police, lifeboats, helicopters and the French authorities is underway.
A Coast Guard spokesman said, “HM Coastguard has coordinated and is currently coordinating search and rescue operations in a number of incidents off Kent, in collaboration with border forces, Kent police and other partners.
“HM Coastguard only deals with the preservation of life, the rescue of people in difficulty and their safe return to shore, where they will be handed over to the emergency services or to the partner authorities concerned.”