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Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021

UK to pay £55m to French border patrols to fund migrant clampdown

UK to pay £55m to French border patrols to fund migrant clampdown

Priti Patel strikes deal as number of people making voyage this year reaches 8,452, eclipsing 2020’s total

The UK taxpayer is to hand over a further €62.7m (£55m) to France to fund another clampdown on small-boat crossings of the Channel, the Home Office has revealed.

The home secretary, Priti Patel, agreed to pay the sum as part of a deal reached with the French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, on Tuesday.

At least 430 people crossed the Dover Strait on Monday, a record for a single day.

On Tuesday more than 287 migrants succeeded in reaching the UK, bringing the total for the year to at least 8,452, according to available official data compiled by PA Media.

It means the number of people who have made the dangerous journey across the Channel in small boats this year has passed the total for all of 2020 – with more than five months of 2021 to go.

The revelation that the UK is to pay £55m towards French border patrols is likely to anger MPs who have in the past argued that France should be responsible for the costs.

The Home Office said that as part of the deal the number of police patrolling French beaches would more than double for the second time in a year to prevent small boats from departing beaches in France.

The package also includes the following:

*  Patrols of French officers across wider areas of the northern coast between Boulogne and Dunkirk, and expanded patrols further north-west around Dieppe.

*  Deployment of wide-area surveillance technology to improve coverage of the coast of France to prevent crossing attempts, including use of aerial surveillance.

*  Investment in infrastructure to increase border security at the main border crossing points along the Channel coast.

The new agreement will come into force in the coming days.

With UK support last year, France doubled the number of officers deployed daily on French beaches, which led to France preventing twice as many crossings so far this year than in the same period in 2020.

But the Home Office said that as French interceptions had increased, organised criminal gangs had altered their tactics, moving further up the French coast and forcing migrants to take even longer, riskier, journeys.

Patel has come under increased pressure from all political parties to get a grip on the crisis. The deal with France comes as the flagship asylum bill is debated in parliament. Humanitarian groups have said the measures in the bill will do nothing to address the root causes of Channel crossings.

Despite the surge in such crossings, the UK continues to receive far fewer boat arrivals and asylum claims than many of its European counterparts.

At least 44,230 people have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean by land and sea so far this year, according to data from the UN high commissioner for refugees.

Despite the sharp rise in small-boat arrivals on England’s south coast, asylum applications in Britain fell in 2020 to 29,456. This was significantly fewer than the 93,475 asylum applications made in France and the 121,955 in Germany.

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