UK and France Sign Deal to Crack Down on Migrant Crossings

migrant crossing
File image courtesy UK Home Office

Published Nov 29, 2020 10:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

The governments of the UK and France have reached a new agreement to stem the flow of maritime migration across the English Channel. According to French interior minister Gerard Darmanin, the deal includes a redoubled crackdown on smuggling networks, more patrol personnel on the French coastline and better accommodations for asylum seekers on the French side. 

The agreement will double the number of gendarmes patrolling France's beaches along the Channel, beginning December 1. The bolstered patrols will be focused on a 150-kilometer stretch of coastline frequently used by people-smuggling networks and enable quicker response rates to suspicious activity. The objective is to stop migrants from leaving French beaches in the first place and prevent more crossings. 

Recent efforts to crack down on migration have already raised the percentage of voyages prevented or intercepted, according to the office of UK Home Secretary Priti Patel. The proportion of thwarted crossings has risen from about 40 percent last year to 60 percent in recent weeks. 

The deal will also see the deployment of more high-tech surveillance systems for French officers, including drones, radar equipment, optronic binoculars and fixed cameras. This is intended to give them an extra edge in detecting human smuggling activity and hasten their response time. 

"Today’s agreement is a significant moment for our two countries, stepping up our joint action to tackle illegal migration. 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," said Patel in a statement. "On top of these new operational plans, we will introduce a new asylum system that is firm and fair, and I will bring forward new legislation next year to deliver on that commitment."