UK and France sign agreement to make Channel migrant crossings ‘unsustainable’ | Immigration and asylum


Britain and France signed a new agreement aimed at reducing the number of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats.

Interior Minister Priti Patel and her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin have said they want to make the route taken by more than 8,000 people this year unviable.

They agreed to double the number of French police officers patrolling 150 km of coastline targeted by smuggling networks.

However, the Home Office did not specify how many additional agents would be deployed.

The ad was criticized by a charity as an “extraordinary mark of failure” akin to “the reorganization of the deckchairs on the Titanic”.

In the meantime, Amnesty International UK said it was “deeply disappointing”.

Patel and Darmanin also agreed to an improved set of surveillance technologies, with drones, radar equipment, cameras and optronic binoculars.

It is hoped that 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 measures to help migrants find accommodation in France and measures to strengthen border security at ports in the north and west of the country.

It builds on previously agreed measures which the Interior Ministry said had seen the proportion of crossings intercepted and stopped since it rose from 41% last year to 60% in recent weeks.

Patel said the new deal with France “will make a difference” in the numbers.

Speaking in the Foreign Office following discussions with her French counterpart, she said: “We know that the French authorities have prevented more than 5,000 migrants from crossing into the UK, we have had hundreds of migrants. ‘arrests and that’s because of the joint intelligence and communications. that we share between our two authorities.

“This new package today that I have just signed with my French counterpart, the French Minister of the Interior, effectively doubles the number of police officers on French beaches, it is investing in more technology and surveillance – more radar technology that supports the law enforcement effort – and on top of that, we now share in terms of strengthening our border security.

Interior Minister Priti Patel signs the new agreement with her French counterpart, Gérald Darmanin, aimed at limiting the number of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats. Photography: Stefan Rousseau / PA

She said the number of migrants making the crossing had increased exponentially, in part because of the good weather this year, and accused trafficking gangs of “facilitating” dangerous journeys.

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

She added that the cost charged by traffickers had come down and “people are putting their lives at risk”.

Despite the deteriorating weather conditions, the British Border Force continued to deal with migrants making the dangerous journey from northern France.

The number of crossings aboard small boats has exploded this year, with more than 8,000 reaching the United Kingdom – up from 1,835 in 2019, according to data analyzed by the PA news agency.

This despite the wish of the Minister of the Interior last year to make such trips a “rare phenomenon”.

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

Written by Mael Galisson, of Gisti, a legal service for asylum seekers in France, it described the evolution of border security in and around the Strait of Dover as a “story of death”.

He claimed that responses to the migrant crisis have become increasingly militarized, forcing people to resort to more dangerous routes.

Bella Sankey, director of the humanitarian charity Detention Action, said: “It is an extraordinary mark of failure that the Home Secretary announces with such fanfare that she is reorganizing the deckchairs on the Titanic.

“No amount of massages on the numbers obscures his refusal to make the sensible decision to create a safe and legal route to the UK from northern France, thus avoiding level crossings and child deaths.

“Instead, it is throwing taxpayer dollars for the benefit of many of the same measures that have no chance of having a significant impact on this dangerous situation.

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds argued that the Tories had “regularly announced progress and not made”.

He said: “An agreement with the French authorities alone is not enough. Conservatives continue to fail in establishing safe roads and have abolished DfID [the Department for International Development], the department that looked at the reasons people flee their homes in the first place.

The deal has also been criticized by human rights group Amnesty International UK. Steve Valdez-Symonds, its refugee and migrant rights program director, said: “It is deeply disappointing that once again these two governments have ignored the needs and rights of the people who should be at the heart of their response. .

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

“The UK government must share the responsibility of providing sanctuary to its nearest neighbor.

“This continued focus on simply closing roads to the UK is blind and reckless – it only increases the risks people, who have already endured incredible hardships, are forced to take.

Clare Moseley, Founder of Care4Calais, said: “This package of surveillance, drones and radar makes it look like the government is preparing for a military enemy.

“They are ordinary people – from engineers to farmers and their families – they are not criminals and they do not want to take this terrifying journey.


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