Numbers of officers patrolling beaches in northern France will increase by 40 percent over the coming months as a result of U.K. funding to step up action to reduce illegal small boat crossings, following a new U.K. and France agreement signed today.
The news comes as Frontex – the European Border and Coast Guard Agency – reports that the number of irregular migrants detected in the English Channel has increased by 70 percent.
The U.K. Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, is in France today (November 14) to finalize the arrangement with the French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. The new agreement lays the foundations for deeper U.K.-French cooperation to tackle illegal migration and marks the next step for the close operational partnership between the two countries which has prevented over 30,000 crossings this year.
The arrangement means, for the first time, specialist U.K. officers will also be embedded with their French counterparts, which will increase information sharing, improve understanding of the threat, and ensure the U.K. is at the heart of efforts to disrupt crossings and clamp down on people smugglers. This more integrated approach will also include strengthened operational co-operation, including joint U.K.-France analysis teams supporting the coordination and exchange of information by French-command HQ.
“We must do everything we can to stop people making these dangerous journeys and crack down on the criminal gangs,” Braverman said. “This is a global challenge requiring global solutions, and it is in the interests of both the U.K. and French governments to work together to solve this complex problem. There are no quick fixes, but this new arrangement will mean we can significantly increase the number of French gendarmes patrolling the beaches in northern France and ensure U.K. and French officers are working hand in hand to stop the people smugglers.”
Joint working between U.K. and French officers so far has secured more than 140 convictions connected to people smuggling since the start of 2020 – and these criminals now face a combined 400 years behind bars.
The U.K.-France Joint Intelligence Cell, which has so far dismantled 55 organized crime groups and secured over 500 arrests since its inception in 2020, will also be expanded.
This latest multi-year arrangement between France and the U.K. is worth up to 72.2 million euros in 2022 to 2023. It will strengthen security at ports to help clamp down on illegal entry by funding investment in cutting edge surveillance technology, drones, detection dog teams, CCTV and helicopters to help detect and prevent crossings.
It will also go towards supporting reception and removal centers in France for migrants whose journeys to the UK are prevented, to further deter crossing attempts.
A new taskforce will also be set up, focused on reversing the recent rise in Albanian nationals and organized crime groups exploiting illegal migration routes into Western Europe and the U.K.
This enhanced approach will boost joint British and French collaboration, which has already prevented over 30,000 illegal crossing attempts since the start of the year – more than 50% more than at the same stage last year.