A deal between the UK and France to tackle migrants crossing the Channel has been signed by Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
The number of Border Force officers patrolling the French coast will rise from 200 to 300, and the UK will now pay around £63million, under the revised agreement.
Rishi Sunak has met with French President Emmanuel Macron at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt to discuss the issue, a meeting the UK Prime Minister said he left “with renewed confidence and optimism.”
It comes as the UK struggles to deal with increasing migration levels, with more than 40,000 migrants arriving in the country after crossing the Channel so far this year, with 972 people detected on Saturday (12 November) in 22 boats. This marks a dramatic increase on the 28,500 who made the trip throughout the entirety of 2021.
This rise in numbers has meant that the government is struggling to facilitate migrants - with the Home Secretary coming under fire for the poor living conditions and severe overcrowding at processing centres. Critics have blamed Braverman for the spiralling situation, as many claim she was warned of what would happen but did nothing to prevent it.
Charity Detention Action has launched legal action against the Home Office on behalf of a woman being held at Manston migrant centre, who it said has been “unlawfully detained by the Home Secretary at the Manston facility in egregiously defective conditions”. NationalWorld also revealed that a group of migrants from Manston, who were initially abandoned at London Victoria station as the government tried to curb overcrowding at the site, were then further left to sleep rough for one or two nights.
The government now hopes the deal with France will reduce the number of migrants crossing the border, however Sunak has admitted there is “not one simple solution”. So what is in the Channel crossings deal, and what has already been confirmed between France and the UK? Here’s what we know so far.
What will be in the deal?
The UK is set to increase its funding to France from £55million to £63million. This will enable more funding for CCTV and detection dog teams to stop smuggling via lorries. There will also be more drones and night vision equipment rolled out to help the French Border Force.
The number of British Border Force officers patrolling the French coast will increase from 200 to 300, the Financial Times has reported. They may also be stationed in French control rooms as part of the new deal. This would allow immigration officers to observe the way the French are operating - such as how they coordinate searches for boats being launched into the Channel. It would also enable the British to help the French with hunts for people trafficking gangs.
Meanwhile, some funding will go towards more reception and removal centres in France. Sunak is also reportedly hoping to agree clear targets with Macron for stopping boats crossing the Channel, and is looking to increase the number of French immigration officers patrolling beaches. There are currently 800 daily patrols being carried out in France.
What has the reaction been?
The new deal has been criticised by refugee charities, many of whom have claimed it does nothing to address the factors behind people choosing to put themselves at risk by trying to reach Britain in the first place. This, they said, means it will do “little to end the crossings”.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of Refugee Council, said: “The government must take a more comprehensive approach and create an orderly, fair and humane asylum system that recognises that the vast majority of those taking dangerous journey are refugees escaping for their lives.” He called for a focus on creating more “safe routes” and urged the government to do “far more” to reduce the backlogs in the current asylum system, while also encouraging the UK to work with the EU and other countries to “share responsibility” for the “global challenge”.
The Home Secretary admitted there are “no quick fixes”, but stressed that “this new arrangement will mean we can significantly increase the number of French gendarmes patrolling the beaches in northern France.” She also said it would help ensure UK and French officers are “working hand in hand to stop the people smugglers”.
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride meanwhile hailed a “fundamental shift” in the tone of relations between Britain and France as officials worked on the details of the deal. He told Sky News: “The mood music seems to be good at the moment. I know the Prime Minister personally has been absolutely on top of this, a couple of briefings a day on the crisis.
“I just think the approach of Rishi Sunak has been one of close engagement - hopefully the French might see him as someone very serious, somebody who wants to work as a close partner in solving a problem which is not good for either country.”
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick discussed concerns about how asylum seekers may be treated with the new deal, commenting: “The government should be guided by both our common desire for decency because those are our values, but also hard-headed common sense".
Jenrick set out several actions the UK plans to take at home to tackle the small boats crisis in an article for the Sunday Telegraph, warning that the idea of “Hotel Britain” must be ended to disincentivise “asylum shopping”. Migrants should be housed in “simple, functional” spaces as opposed to “luxury” rooms, he said, claiming the country’s “generosity” towards refugees is being “abused” by people “skipping the queue”.
The MP faced severe backlash for his comments, but Foreign Secretary James Cleverly defended his colleague. He told BBC Breakfast: “The bulk of people attempting to get to the UK are economic migrants rather than those fleeing persecution or war. They are seeking a better life. I get that, I understand that, the UK is a wonderful place to live. But it is because they perceive the UK to be a very generous country - that is part of the pull factor.”