UK and France sign deal to stop illegal migration across English Channel

New technology will be used and patrols doubled

New record for illegal English Channel crossings

New record for illegal English Channel crossings
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Britain and France signed an agreement to tighten their borders against illegal migration across the English Channel on Saturday, as they pledged to increase sea and land patrols and use technology to close off the precarious route used by migrants to the UK.

UK interior minister Priti Patel said that under the pact, the number of officers patrolling French beaches would be doubled, and drones and radar would be put to work.

Home Secretary Priti Patel at the Home Office in central London, where she signed a new agreement with her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin aimed at curbing the number of migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats, Saturday Nov. 28, 2020.  The lawmakers met via a video Internet link, agreeing to double the number of French police patrolling a 150km stretch of coastline in northern France in an attempt to stop people crossing the English Channel in small boats. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
Priti Patel warned the new Covid-19 strain is more transmissable, describing it as "bouncy". AP

In 2020, hundreds of people, including children, have been stopped from crossing to southern England from makeshift camps in northern France – navigating one of the world's busiest shipping routes in overloaded rubber dinghies. Some migrants have drowned.

Ms Patel said that the agreement represented a step forward in the countries' mission to make crossings unviable.

"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," she said.

The UK and France plan to continue a close dialogue to reduce migratory pressures at the Channel over the next year, she said.

Ms Patel told UK media that French authorities had stopped 5,000 migrants from travelling to the UK so far this year. She said over the last 10 years, the UK had given France £150 million ($199.7m) to tackle immigration.

She said the recent focus by authorities on stopping small boats meant they were now seeing more migrants trying to cross the Channel by lorry, and that border security was being tightened in France to try to stop that.

Britain is also planning new asylum system for next year, Ms Patel said.