Channel crossings continue as fresh deal struck with France

More migrants arrived in the UK as the Government signed a fresh multi-million-pound deal with France in a bid to curb Channel crossings.

The agreement, hiking the figure paid to France by the UK to around 72 million euros (£63 million) in 2022/23, will see British officers stationed in French control rooms for the first time and a 40% boost in beach patrols along the country’s northern coastline.

The latest effort aimed at tackling the migrant crisis comes as the number of people arriving on the south coast after making the journey topped 40,000 for the year so far, with crossings continuing on Monday.

Rishi Sunak said the move would contribute to his efforts to “grip illegal migration” and that he was “confident” numbers would come down over time, although he declined to guarantee they would fall next year.

But critics lambasted the deal, with Conservative MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke saying it “falls short of what is needed”.

Further measures signed off earlier in Paris by Home Secretary Suella Braverman and French interior minister Gerald Darmanin include drones and night vision equipment to help officers detect crossings, as well as stepping up surveillance around ports to prevent migrants entering the UK in lorries, with more CCTV and sniffer dogs.

Cumulative successful arrivals in the UK by people crossing the English Channel in small boats
(PA Graphics)

The “activity will begin with immediate effect”, a Home Office policy paper detailing the agreement said, with the rise in French officers on beach patrols taking place “in the next five months”.

The Prime Minister told broadcasters ahead of the G20 summit in Bali: “I’m confident that we can get the numbers down.

“But I also want to be honest with people that it isn’t a single thing that will magically solve this. We can’t do it overnight.

“But people should be absolutely reassured that this is a top priority for me. There’s lots more that we need to do.”

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Home Secretary Suella Braverman signing the latest deal to tackle migrant crossings with the French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin in Paris (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ms Elphicke said: “It doesn’t match the scale or urgency of the small boats crisis, or the increased risk of loss of life as winter approaches.”

Human rights group Amnesty International UK said the deal was no different from previous agreements and accused the Government of “recycling the same failed response”, while the Refugee Council said the move would “do little to end the crossings”.

Describing the agreement as a “small step in the right direction”, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told broadcasters this was “a much bigger challenge that the Government still isn’t gripping” and warned of the cost to taxpayers.

Ms Braverman, who is to meet neighbouring countries “as soon as possible” and will travel to Frankfurt later this week to discuss tackling serious organised crime with her G7 counterparts, said the “complex” problem was a “global challenge” which governments must work together to solve, adding: “We must do everything we can to stop people making these dangerous journeys and crack down on the criminal gangs.

“There are no quick fixes but this new arrangement will mean we can 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 the people smugglers.”

More than 1,800 migrants arrived in the UK over the weekend marking the first Channel crossings in November after an 11-day hiatus amid bad weather.

Government figures show 972 people arrived in 22 boats on Saturday, followed by 853 people in 26 boats on Sunday, taking the provisional total for the year so far to 41,729. Total crossings last year were 28,526.

The increase in beach patrols in northern France would “increase early detection”, Downing Street said, while the presence of British police joining French law enforcement as observers in control rooms and on approaches to beaches is meant to improve understanding of the threat at hand and help inform deployments.

Other measures to be introduced as part of the deal include establishing a new taskforce to address the “recent rise in Albanians and organised crime groups exploiting illegal migration routes” into Western Europe and the UK, No 10 said.

Meanwhile, Britain and France also pledged to ramp up co-operation on the matter, with a meeting of the “Calais Group” of neighbouring countries to be scheduled as soon as possible.

The deal sees the two countries promise to share more intelligence and invest in reception centres in the south of France to “deter” migrants coming into the country from the Mediterranean from “moving to the Channel coast” to attempt crossings.

There will also be French removal centres for migrants prevented from crossing to the UK who opt to be returned back to their own country where it is “appropriate, safe and legal”, Home Office papers said.