UK to Pay France 28 Million Pounds to Double Number of Officers Stopping Migrants From Crossing Channel

November 29, 2020 Updated: November 29, 2020

The British government has agreed to pay 28 million pounds (nearly $37.26 million) to double the number of officers patrolling French beaches to prevent migrants from crossing the English Channel.

In an agreement reached on Saturday, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin reaffirmed their commitment to make this route of illegal migration unviable.

“Today’s agreement is a significant moment for our two countries, stepping up our joint action to tackle illegal migration,” Patel said in a statement.

Priti Patel 2019
Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel addresses the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Frank Augstein/AP Photo)

The newly enhanced agreement builds on an Anglo-French joint cooperation that has already seen the proportion of crossings intercepted and prevented an increase from 41 percent in 2019 to 60 percent in recent weeks, the UK government said.

As part of the deal, French police will double the number of officers patrolling beaches starting Dec. 1, boosting their ability to stop migrants leaving French beaches from the 150-kilometre stretch of coastline regularly targeted by people-smuggling networks.

The two countries also agreed an enhanced package of surveillance technology—including drones, radar equipment, optronic binoculars, and fixed cameras, which will enable French police to be more efficient in deploying officers in the right place at the right time.

The UK pledged to make a further financial investment of 31.4 million euros (approximately 28 million pounds) to support French efforts against illegal channel crossings.

The ministers said that the high levels of illegal small boat crossings this year were “completely unacceptable” and need to be “firmly addressed.”

Last month, two adults and two children drowned after a boat carrying migrants sank off the coast of Dunkirk in northern France.

“The recent tragic drownings demonstrated the risk to life which remains the foremost concern for both governments,” the Anglo-French joint statement read.

“The involvement of ruthless organised criminals who exploit vulnerable migrants is well documented and will continue to be tackled with full determination by the authorities in both countries.”

France is not the only country where the migrant boats originate. Britain’s National Crime Agency said on Nov. 18 that 72 people were arrested after police intercepted a fishing boat off the eastern coast of England, which had sailed from the Ostend area of Belgium.

The three crew members, a Latvian national and two Ukrainian nationals were arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration. The 69 others, all Albanian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of breaking immigration rules.

Simon Veazey and Mary Clark contributed to this report.