LONDON/LILLE: Increased patrols and technology will be deployed along France’s beaches under a new agreement between Paris and London aimed at stopping illegal migration across the Channel.
A growing number of migrants have tried to reach Britain across the perilous and busy shipping lane in recent months, with four deaths recorded in 2019 and seven so far this year.
The deal will see French patrols doubled from December 1, with drones and radar used to detect those attempting to cross, Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel said.
Welcoming the deal, Patel said it would help the two countries with their “shared mission to make Channel crossings completely unviable”.
As part of the deal, Britain “has pledged to make an additional financial investment of 31.4 million euros to support France’s major efforts against illegal crossings,” the French interior ministry said in a statement issued on Sunday.
The ministry also said it would review results over the next six months to “assess the effectiveness and impact of these additional measures”.
The issue has been a source of tension, with Britain accusing France of not doing enough to stop the crossings.
In September, French authorities said they had intercepted more than 1,300 people trying to reach Britain, including a handful who had attempted to swim the 30-odd kilometres (18 miles) across the Channel.
Around 6,200 attempted the crossing between January 1 and the end of August, with inflatable boats, paddleboards, kayaks or even life jackets to keep them afloat.
Northern France has long been a magnet for people seeking to smuggle themselves to Britain in small boats or in one of the thousands of trucks and cars that cross over daily on ferries and trains.
Ships pull 64 migrants from Channel
Sixty-four migrants including a pregnant woman and several children were rescued in the English Channel in the past 24 hours as they were seeking to reach Britain aboard rickety vessels, French maritime authorities said on Sunday.
A first group of 45 migrants were spotted Saturday off of Leffrinckoucke, near the northern French port of Dunkirk, aboard a small craft “in difficulty”, a first statement by the French prefecture in charge of the Channel and North Sea said.
Several “appeared to be in a state of hypothermia” after being brought aboard a patrol ship, it said.
First responders and border police took charge of the migrants, who were “all safe and sound” when they were put ashore in Calais in the early evening, it added.
Then early on Sunday a French customs patrol boat rescued a second group of 19 migrants some 18 kilometres (11 miles) south of Boulogne-sur-Mer.
They included at least two children, who also “seemed to be in a state of hypothermia,” Sunday’s statement said. They were handed over to police, it added.
Calm weather this weekend prompted fears among French sea rescuers that larger numbers than usual would attempt the crossing to Britain, a source close to emergency services said.
Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2020