LONDON — Rishi Sunak’s government has struck an agreement with France in bid to stop migrants illegally crossing the English Channel.
In one of his first moves as U.K. prime minister, Sunak agreed a deal which will step up payments to France to increase patrols on its beaches and see the two countries collaborate more closely on policing.
Suella Braverman, the U.K. home secretary, met French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Monday morning to finalize the deal.
So far this year, some 40,000 migrants have made the journey across the Channel to the U.K., up from 28,526 in 2021.
“We have got to get a grip of the international trade in human misery,” U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Sky News Monday morning.
Sunak’s government has been under pressure over reports that migrants have been housed in unsafe and inhumane conditions after arriving in the U.K., with government processing centers struggling to cope with the volume of crossings.
The large majority of migrants who arrive in the U.K. claim asylum. Many of them are housed in hotels while they await the outcome of their applications, which are meant to be decided within six months but can take longer.
The new agreement will involve a 40 percent increase in the number of officers patrolling beaches in northern France to detect and prevent small boats from attempting to cross the Channel.
It includes the formation of a new “Calais group” of neighboring countries affected by the crossings and a task force focused on reversing the rise in Albanian nationals and organized crime groups using the Channel route to smuggle people into the U.K.
The deal comes after Sunak met French President Emmanuel Macron at the COP27 climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt last week.
For the first time, British police officers will be embedded in French forces and vice versa to improve understanding of each others’ operations. Officers will deploy higher-end technology including drones and night vision capabilities.
The deal includes a commitment to increase surveillance at French ports to prevent illegal entry via lorries, including more CCTV and dog detection teams.
The two governments also agreed to improve information sharing and invest in reception and removal centers in France for migrants whose journeys to the U.K. are prevented, in order to discourage them from attempting to cross again and provide safe alternatives.