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France, Britain agree tougher stance on migrants crossing by sea

November 29, 2020
 British Home Secretary Priti Patel seen signing an agreement on Saturday to beef up police presence in the English Channel with her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel seen signing an agreement on Saturday to beef up police presence in the English Channel with her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin.

LONDON — Britain and France signed an agreement on Saturday to beef up police presence in the English Channel in a bid to stop more migrants from illegally making the crossing, DPA reported.

Twice as many police will be deployed on the French coast to detect migrants at sea, according to an agreement signed by British Home Secretary Priti Patel and her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin.

Surveillance equipment such as drones and radar will also be deployed in ports and coastal regions. It was unclear how many more officers would be deployed along the British coastline.

More than 8,000 migrants have crossed the English Channel to Britain this year alone, up from 2,000 the year before, according to the British Press Association news agency.

Often they undertake the journey on small, unsafe rubber dinghies and people regularly drown in the attempt. Conservative hard-liner Patel wants to significantly tighten the rules for legal migration to Britain in the future.

Darmanin and Patel had agreed to spend €31.4 million ($41 million) on northern French coastal surveillance to make Channel crossing "unviable," Britain's Home Office stated.

Patel told British media that French authorities had already stopped 5,000 migrants from crossing to the UK this year. The extra funding was to double French shore patrols and to purchase new equipment, including radar and drones.

The extra funding comes on top of 150 million pounds ($200 million, €167 million) given to France over the last ten years, she said, adding that "we are already seeing fewer migrants leaving French beaches."

With ferry traffic throttled by coronavirus restrictions, many migrants have turned to using small boats organized by people smugglers in order to cross the Channel.

Human rights and humanitarian aid groups say the best way to stop such Channel journeys is to provide safe routes for people to seek asylum in Britain. The charity Detention Action sharply criticized the latest British-French initiative.

There was an urgent need to create "a safe and legal route to the UK from northern France, thereby preventing crossings and child deaths," its director, Bella Sankey, was quoted as saying by the BBC.

Patel also wants to significantly tighten the rules for legal migration to Britain in a future asylum system to be legislated next year. — Agencies


November 29, 2020
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