Channel crossings: Britain and France reach agreement to prevent migrants making journey

Priti Patel, the home secretary, and her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin said they planned to increase police presence and use drones to make the route – used by more than 8,000 people this year – uncrossable. 

As part of the package, double the number of French police who patrol a 150 km (93 miles) stretch of coastline will be deployed, and there will be an increase in surveillance technology used – including drones, radar equipment, cameras and hi-tech binoculars. 

Speaking inside the Foreign Office on Saturday, Ms Patel praised the “joint intelligence” between the two nations, citing it as the reason “the French authorities have stopped over 5,000 migrants from crossing into the United Kingdom”. 

She said: “This new package today that I have just signed with my French counterpart, the French interior minister, effectively doubles the number of police on the French beaches, it invests in more technologies and surveillance – more radar technology that support the law enforcement effort – and on top of that we are now sharing in terms of toughening up our border security.”

The increase in technological equipment is an attempt to help the French deploy officers to the right places to detect migrants and stop them before they start their journey, the Home Office said.

Ms Patel did not, however, disclose how many more officers would be deployed – only that the new agreement would “make a difference” to the number of migrants crossing the Channel.

She said the number of people making the crossing had grown exponentially, blaming this year’s largely good weather in the UK and the fact that trafficking gangs had reduced the cost of channel-crossing journeys – meaning more people are “risking their lives”. 

“We should not lose sight of the fact that illegal migration exists for one fundamental reason: that is because there are criminal gangs – people traffickers – facilitating this trade,” Ms Patel said.

The number of people crossing the channel in small boats has increased dramatically this year, with more than 8,000 reaching the UK – compared with 1,835 in 2019, according to the PA news agency.

And despite gradually worsening conditions as Britain enters its winter months, the UK’s Border Force has continued to deal with migrants making the dangerous trip from northern France.

Home secretary Priti Patel is known for her zero-tolerance attitude towards migrants illegally entering the UK


The announcement was criticised by one charity official as an “extraordinary mark of failure”. Bella Sankey, director of humanitarian charity Detention Action, said: “No amount of massaging the numbers masks her refusal to take the sensible step of creating a safe and legal route to the UK from northern France, thereby preventing crossings and child deaths.”

A recent report exposed nearly 300 border-related deaths in and around the English Channel since 1999. Written by Mael Galisson, from Gisti, a legal service for asylum seekers in France, it described the evolution of border security in and around the Dover Strait as a “history of death”.

The agreement includes steps to support migrants into accommodation in France, as well as measures to increase border security at ports in the north and west of the country. It builds on measures previously agreed which the Home Office said had seen the proportion of crossings intercepted rise from 41 per cent in 2019 to 60 per cent in recent weeks.

Ms Sankey, of Detention Action, said the “dangerous” agreement would never have a “significant impact”.

Speaking to reporters today, she said it was an example of Ms Patel “throwing taxpayers’ money away on more of the same measures that stand no chance of having a significant impact on this dangerous state of affairs”.

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