UK's deal with France to curb Channel crossings reaches 'final stages' as Sunak meets Macron

7 November 2022, 16:55

A deal to curb migrant crossings is "close"
A deal to curb migrant crossings is "close". Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

The UK's deal with France to help limit Channel crossings is reaching its "final stages", with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claiming he is "determined" to grip the challenge of migration.

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Mr Sunak discussed the deal with his counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Monday amid skyrocketing migration via the perilous Channel route this year.

The deal could see targets for cutting small boat crossings agreed, a minimum number of French police patrolling beaches, and UK Border Force agents deployed in France, among other measures.

The deal is in its "final stages", according to the Prime Minister's spokesman, although no further announcements are expected on Monday.

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Mr Sunak, who also met Italian leader Giorgia Meloni, said there was "a lot" to talk about with French president Mr Macron when the pair met for the first time on Monday at Cop27 in Egypt.

Asked what they will do about the growing number of Channel crossings, Mr Sunak told broadcasters in Sharm El-Sheikh: "It was great to meet President Macron to talk about not just tackling illegal migration but the range of other areas in which we want to cooperate closely with the French on.

"But also let's remember, this is an issue that affects many countries. And actually I've been talking to other European leaders as well about our shared challenge of tackling illegal migration.

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"And I think there is an opportunity for us to work closely, not just with the French but with other countries as well.

"By working together with our European partners, we can make a difference, grip this challenge of illegal migration and stop people coming illegally."

Acknowledging tackling Channel crossings is a "complex issue", Mr Sunak reiterated he was "determined to grip" the situation but stressed there was "not one simple solution that's going to solve it overnight", adding: "We all want this situation to resolve itself as quickly as possible."

The number of people making the dangerous and expensive crossings - often run by people smuggling gangs - has reached nearly 40,000 in 2022 already, up from just a few hundred in 2018.

Migrants attempting the Channel crossing
Migrants attempting the Channel crossing. Picture: Getty
A protest outside the Manston processing centre
A protest outside the Manston processing centre. Picture: Getty

The UK's migrant processing centre in Manston is alarmingly overcrowded, with disease breaking out as a result. The government is facing several legal challenges over conditions migrants are living in, although ministers have said the situation is improving..

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick told the Commons on Monday that there had been a "significant reduction" in the number of people at the facility and this was now "back below" its maximum capacity of 1,600 after more than 2,300 migrants were moved to other accommodation.

Earlier Business Secretary Grant Shapps had described how the site in Kent was "tipping into becoming an unofficial detention centre" when he briefly held the post of home secretary.

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During his six-day tenure he was "very keen to ensure that we ... maintained ourselves within the law, had some very clear advice on that and made a number of changes" to how the centre operated and to make sure people were moved out, he told BBC Breakfast.

Speaking to Sky News, he added that he received "very clear" advice that the Government was "in danger" of breaking the law over Manston if action was not taken.

But he said he did not see advice given to Ms Braverman before he took over, during her first brief appointment as home secretary.