France and UK agree on joint steps to combat illegal migration

United Kingdom – Joint statement – A new phase of Franco-British collaboration on tackling illegal migration – Press release issued by the Ministry of the Interior¹

Paris, 20 July 2021

The Interior Minister of France, M. Gérald Darmanin, and the Home Secretary of the UK, Ms Priti Patel, approved today the strengthening of their joint action and cooperation to prevent illegal immigration at the shared border, with a particular focus on small boats crossings.

In the last year, the UK and France have worked in partnership to address illegal migration. France has doubled the number of successful interceptions of attempted launches of small boats, preventing more than 7,500 people from making the dangerous crossing, thus saving twice as many lives as in the same period in 2020. France doubled the number of officers deployed daily on French beaches and purchased more cutting-edge surveillance technology.

However, despite these joint efforts the UK and France agree that additional and urgent action is required as the number of crossings and attempted crossings continues to rise. Facing this alarming number of crossings, the ministers agreed that the UK and France need to build on their existing cooperation in this space to prevent risk to life and stop ruthless organized criminals exploiting migrants.

Both ministers underlined their continued commitment to fight all forms of illegal immigration, stressing in particular the need to strive more actively to make the small boats model unviable. It poses an unacceptable humanitarian risk to vulnerable victims. It also creates disruption to local communities on the British side of the Channel and represents a potential source of public order problems on French territory. Joint action has therefore been agreed to:

-  strengthen law enforcement deployments along the coast of France, more than doubling again equipped police resource focused on addressing illegal migration. With this increase, France will patrol wider areas of coastline across the northern coast between Boulogne and Dunkirk, expanding patrols further south-west including around Dieppe, and bolster hinterland surveillance
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-  deploy more wide-area surveillance technology and vehicles to further improve coverage of the coast of France and thus prevent crossing attempts, including via effective deployment of aerial surveillance
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-  invest in physical measures to increase border security at key transport infrastructure along the Channel coast, reaffirming our shared commitment also to address illegal migration via freight traffic
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-  investment in centres dedicated to providing support to migrants across France and voluntary returns to countries of origin where appropriate. Centres provide appropriate accommodation, medical advice, and information to guide migrants towards the asylum options available to them at an earlier stage, providing alternatives to dangerous crossings.
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The UK has pledged to make a further financial investment of €62.7 million in 2021-2022 to help France expand its enforcement and technological capabilities as set out above. Both ministers agreed on the need to keep under close review the impact of these measures and their implementation.

Whilst these are important steps, the UK and France also agreed that further collaboration would be required to fundamentally disrupt the organized crime which underpins the small-boats and illegal-migration phenomenon.

Besides the continued strengthening of security measures at border crossing points, our long-term approach will encompass the strategic deployment of high-tech devices across areas particularly affected by migratory flows leading to the shared border. The UK and France will combine their efforts to reach a long-term plan for a “smart border” along the coast which builds further on surveillance capabilities by providing networked surveillance technology to inform detections. Cutting-edge technology will identify where crossings are being attempted, directing French law enforcement officers to those locations, thereby stopping migrants from risking their lives in entering the water. An integrated surveillance system will be developed which will enable improved coordination by air, land and sea. At the same time, law enforcement officers need to be equipped appropriately in order to match the traffickers’ adaptability.

It was agreed that the UK and France would further maximize our ability to detect, disrupt and deter organized criminal groups by sharing respective covert policing expertise, capacity and capability in support of joint intelligence development and live investigations on each side of the Channel as well as further upstream.

The UK government is bringing forward legislation with the key objective of deterring illegal entry into the UK, breaking the business model of criminal trafficking networks and saving lives, reducing the attractiveness of the UK as an asylum destination. The New Plan for Immigration introduces measures to strengthen penalties for illegal migration and its facilitation.

The UK and France support the idea of a UK-EU readmission agreement to mutual advantage in terms of deterring illegal migration, protecting the vulnerable, and tackling the criminal gangs. The ministers also underlined their wish to enhance their cooperation with bilateral partners, in particular with our near neighbours. Work will be advanced to strengthen joint cooperation on migration with these partners and round tables be held shortly at local level in order to achieve this goal.

France emphasizes its strong commitment to improve the control of all of its borders. Confronted with unprecedented migration flows at the southern borders, French authorities have doubled the number of law enforcement border officers deployed at these borders, directly contributing to contain the number of migrants who make it to its northern coasts. These measures, added to the mobilization of active and reservist officers at its border with the UK and an increase in its capacities to provide shelter for asylum seekers, represent an unprecedented effort to disrupt the migration route towards its northern border.

Ministers encouraged the continued exploration of innovative solutions that save lives, tackle organised criminality and make the small boats model unviable. The ministers committed to pursuing discussions on what further measures can be taken as part of a close and ongoing partnership to address illegal migration./.

¹Source of English text: UK Government website.

Published on 22/07/2021

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