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France and the United Kingdom signed an agreement Monday that aims to stop migrants from crossing the English Channel to the UK, a deadly pathway that has also become a source of friction between the neighboring countries, the Associated Press reported.
The accord, which was signed in Paris by the UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, includes recommendations to combat crime along migrant routes.
Under the deal, the UK government will pay France $75 million over 2022-2023 – a hike of over 13% year-on-year – in exchange for French authorities increasing security patrols along the French coast by 40 percent. This would include 350 more French security force personnel guarding two beaches, as well as more drones and night-vision equipment to help officers detect crossings.
The deal follows a surge in the number of migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Channel using dinghies or small craft. Although the UK receives fewer of these individuals than many other European countries, thousands from around the world make their way to northern France annually in the hope of crossing the Channel.
Dozens have died over the years, including 27 people in November 2021 when their packed boat capsized.
Meanwhile, the deal is part of several measures proposed by the UK’s newly-appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to repair ties with France. Relations between the two countries deteriorated under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his briefly-serving successor Liz Truss.
Sunak hailed the agreement as “a foundation for even greater cooperation in the months ahead.” Critics and migrant rights organizations countered that the deal will do little to stop Channel crossings.
Meanwhile, others have also slammed a controversial plan by the UK to send people who arrive in small boats on a one-way journey to Rwanda.
British officials say the plan will break the business model of smuggling gangs. Critics, however, have labeled it as immoral and impractical, and have challenged it in the courts.