France, UK to expand work for halting migrant crossings: Cleverly

By AFP   January 30, 2024 | 08:45 pm PT
France, UK to expand work for halting migrant crossings: Cleverly
Migrants claiming to be from Darfur, Sudan cross the English Channel in an inflatable boat near Dover, Britain, August 4, 2021. Picture taken August 4, 2021.
Britain and France will step up efforts to halt crossings of the English Channel by migrants in small boats, Britain's interior minister said on Tuesday, after figures showed over 1,000 people had made the crossing so far this month.

British Home Secretary James Cleverly held talks in Paris with French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, with both sides hailing how increased cooperation led to a 36 percent reduction in crossings last year.

But latest figures from the U.K. Home Office have shown over 1,000 people crossed so far in January from France to England, with 276 making the journey this last Sunday alone.

"We will expand upon that work even more closely still to break this evil business model of people smugglers," Clevery told AFP, adding the figures for January were "not what any of us want to see."

But he added the reduction in 2023 "cannot be explained away by the weather, it really is a sign of the excellent and close working relationship that we have with France."

"I'm very keen to continue the excellent working relationship with Interior Minister Darmanin and with the French authorities more generally."

A statement from the UK Home Office said both sides had agreed to "accelerate delivery" of an agreement between Paris and London from March 2023 to step up cooperation.

This move will "expedite deployment" of key aerial surveillance equipment, "ensuring unprecedented levels of coverage to enable French law enforcement to intercept crossing attempts as quickly as possible," it said.

The perilous journeys across one of the world's busiest shipping lanes have become a political headache for Britain's Conservative government, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowing last year to "stop the boats".

Under the deal agreed between Sunak and President Emmanuel Macron in March 2023, London is stepping up funding to France to total 541 million euros ($575 million) up to 2026.

This was aimed at allowing the deployment of hundreds of extra French law enforcement officers along the Channel coast to stop the migrants taking to sea in the first place.

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