The United Kingdom and France have signed a new agreement to try to stop the undocumented movement of people across the Channel, upping patrols and technology to close off dangerous routes refugees and migrants use in hopes of reaching the UK on small boats.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said that, under the deal signed on Saturday, the number of officers patrolling French beaches would double, and new equipment, including drones and radar, would be employed.
“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.
Amnesty International called the agreement “profoundly disappointing”.
Aid and human rights groups have said the best way to stop the journeys is to provide safe routes for people to seek asylum in the UK.
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 have drowned.
Patel, and her French counterpart, Gerald Darmanin, said they wanted to make the route unviable.
The UK and France plan to continue a close dialogue to reduce migratory pressures at the shared border during the next year, Patel said.
Patel told British media that French authorities had stopped 5,000 people from travelling to the UK so far this year. Patel said that over the last 10 years, the UK had given France 150 million pounds ($177.9m) to tackle immigration.
She said the recent focus by authorities on stopping small boats meant they were now seeing more refugees and migrants trying to cross the Channel via cargo trucks, and that border security was being tightened in France to try to stop that.
The UK is also planning to introduce a new asylum system through legislation next year, Patel said.
The Detention Action charity also sharply criticised the agreement. The organisation’s director, Bella Sankey, said there was an urgent need to create safe and legal routes for migration instead.