France, UK agree fresh deal to curb Channel migrant crossings

Migrants sit onboard a boat navigating in agitated waters off the coast of northern France on August 27, 2020.
Migrants sit onboard a boat navigating in agitated waters off the coast of northern France on August 27, 2020. © Sameer Al-Doumy, AFP

Britain and France signed a new agreement to try to stop illegal migration across the Channel on Saturday, upping patrols and technology in the hope of closing off a dangerous route used by migrants to try to reach the UK on small boats.


UK interior minister Priti Patel said that under the deal, the number of officers patrolling French beaches would double, and new equipment including drones and radar would be employed.

This year, hundreds of people, including some children, have been caught crossing to southern England from makeshift camps in northern France – navigating one of the world's busiest shipping routes in overloaded rubber dinghies. Some migrants have drowned.

Patel said in a statement that the agreement represented a step forward in the pair's mission to make channel crossings unviable.

"Thanks to more police patrols on French beaches and enhanced intelligence sharing between our security and law enforcement agencies, we are already seeing fewer migrants leaving French beaches," she said.

The UK and France plan to continue a close dialogue to reduce migratory pressures at the shared border over the next year, she added.

News of the deal came as 45 migrants "including a pregnant woman and children" were rescued Saturday in the English Channel after their improvised boat found itself "in trouble" off Dunkirk, French authorities said.

Several of the people "appeared to be in a state of hypothermia" after being brought aboard a patrol ship, the French prefecture in charge of the Channel and North Sea said in a statement.

Patel told UK media that French authorities had stopped 5,000 migrants from travelling to the UK so far this year. She said over the last ten years, the UK had given France 150 million pounds to tackle immigration.

She said the recent focus by authorities on stopping small boats meant they were now seeing more migrants trying to cross the Channel via lorries, and that border security was being tightened in France to try to stop that.

Britain is also planning to introduce a new asylum system through legislation next year, Patel said



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