UK Border Force officers have begun patrolling French beaches in co-operation with local personnel for the first time in a bid to halt the flow of migrants crossing the English Channel.
The first joint patrols are believed to have taken place just before Christmas after months of negotiations between UK and French officials.
The co-operative effort aims to grant UK officers greater real-time intelligence of people-smuggling activity, tactics and migrant movements.
However the UK officers embedded in the French patrols are “observers” only, meaning they will have no rights to exercise powers such as arresting someone for a criminal act.
“Our work with the French is vital to tackling the unacceptable rise in dangerous Channel crossings and we are committed to building on our close co-operation to date,” a Home Office spokesperson said.
“The new agreement will significantly increase the number of French gendarmes patrolling the beaches in northern France and ensure UK and French officers are working hand in hand to stop people smugglers.”
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed a record 45,756 migrants crossed the Channel to the UK in 2022.
The last crossings of the year took place on Christmas Day when 90 people made the journey from France in two boats.
The provisional annual total for 2022 is a record and is 60% up from 28,526 in 2021, but it is lower than the 60,000 that Home Office officials previously estimated could make the journey.
Over the last 12 months, politicians have made a series of attempts to get a grip on the migrant crisis amid a tumultuous period which saw three prime ministers and three home secretaries.
Suella Braverman told of her “dream” of seeing the Government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda succeed after she was appointed Home Secretary – a policy which High Court judges ruled is lawful but has so far been stalled by legal action.
Since the deal was signed in April by her predecessor Priti Patel, 40,460 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised to bring in legislation in 2023 to make it “unambiguously clear that if you enter the UK illegally, you should not be able to remain here”.
The number of migrants crossing the Channel has steadily increased since 299 people were detected in 2018. There were 1,843 crossings recorded in 2019 and 8,466 in 2020, according to the Home Office.
August last year was the highest month on record for crossings when 8,631 people arrived in the UK. August 22 saw a record 1,295 migrants crossing in a single day on 27 boats.
The number of arrivals began to fall towards the end of 2022, which could reflect seasonal changes as a result of the weather.
In December 1,745 people made the journey – slightly fewer than the 1,770 recorded in the last month of 2021.
The MoD said its data is taken from “live operational systems” and is subject to change, “including reduction”.
A Government spokesperson said: “The global migration crisis is causing an unprecedented strain on our asylum system.
“Nobody should put their lives at risk by taking dangerous and illegal journeys. We will go further to tackle the gangs driving this, using every tool at our disposal to deter illegal migration and disrupt the business model of people smugglers.”