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UK and France sign €72 million deal over Channel migrants

November 14, 2022

London has agreed to pay for France to increase its patrols along the English Channel. The deal comes as the UK experiences a record number of migrant crossings.

Migrants picked up by a RNLI rescue ship in the English Channel after an incident with their boat
The UK government has said there has been a record number of migrant Channel crossings this yearImage: Gareth Fuller/empics/picture alliance

The UK has agreed to pay France €72.2 million ($74.5 million) to fund patrols along the French coast to preventmigrants from crossing the English Channel in small boats, according to a deal signed on Monday.

Channel crossings have been a source of tension between London and Paris. The number of migrants arriving on British shores has increased this year up to a record 40,885 so far, already more than the 28,561 recorded in 2021, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

What does the deal include?

French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanian and his British counterpart Suella Braverman signed the deal Monday that will see France increase its patrols by 40% in 2022/2023 — equivalent to around 350 extra French officers.

British officers will also join the French-led control rooms to improve coordination and "strengthen common understanding" on the two sides of the Channel.

Part of the sum has also been earmarked to increase security at ports, including the use of drones, police dogs, CCTV and helicopters all to prevent migrant crossings. Reception and removal centers on the French side of the sea will also get funds deal with those individuals who are prevented from crossing.

"It is in the interests of both the UK and French governments to work together to solve this complex problem," Braverman said in a statement from Paris on Monday morning.

"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."

A turning point for French-UK relations

The agreement comes following a meeting between the new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at the COP27 summit in Egypt.

Sunak has taken a different, more cordial approach from his predecessors Liz Truss and Boris Johnson who had previously blamed France for not doing enough to stop the high numbers of people crossing from France to the UK.

The French and British premiers are planning on holding another bilateral meeting focused on defense in early 2023.

The UK government has estimated that the cost of housing migrants and dealing with asylum claims, which have created a logjam due to their growing numbers, is in the area of GBP 6.8 million ($7.8 million, €7.77 million) per day.

But refugee rights groups have accused the government of inhumane treatment of migrants including unsanitary housing and callous rhetoric that they say has led to increased threats of violence.

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ab/rt (AFP, Reuters)