Britain has pledged €62.7 million in 2021-2022 to help France stem the flow of illegal migrants crossing the Channel, the French interior ministry said.
This includes doubling police patrols along certain sections of the French coastline.
Visioconférence avec mon homologue britannique @pritipatel pour signer un accord historique ! Le Royaume-Uni s’engage à verser 62,7 millions d’euros pour lutter contre l’immigration clandestine trans-Manche.
🤝 Un vrai travail en commun franco-britannique👇 pic.twitter.com/CBT6noIYNu
— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) July 20, 2021
According to the BBC, nearly 8,000 people on 345 vessels have reached the English coast from mainland Europe this year.
Growing numbers of migrants – many of them on dangerously overcrowded inflatable boats – have reached the UK since the start of 2020. The crossings typically increase in favourable summer weather.
One dinghy carrying around 50 people including women and children landed Monday in Kent on England’s southern coast, with some raising their hands in celebration.
Dan O’Mahoney, the government’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, called the rise in crossings “unacceptable” and “dangerous”.
“People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and not risk their lives making these dangerous crossing,” he said.
“We are continuing to pursue the criminals behind these illegal crossings.”
Last year, the government says roughly 8,500 people arrived in Britain having made the perilous journey across the Channel, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Most of the crossings start in France, and the two governments have been at loggerheads over who should take responsibility for stopping them.
O’Mahoney said the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill would “protect lives and break this cycle of illegal crossings”.
The legislation increases the maximum sentence for migrants entering the UK unlawfully from six months to four years. Convicted people-smugglers would face a life sentence.
“People cross the Channel because they are out of options,” Daniel Sohege, director of the human rights group Stand For All, wrote on Twitter.
“This is what happens when other routes are closed,” he added, saying the new bill would make the situation “worse and more dangerous”.
Priti Patel insisted the legislation was long overdue.
“This bill will finally address the issues that have resulted in the broken system – of over a long period of time – of illegal migration,” she told parliament on Monday.