The UK and France have agreed to “closer cooperation” to tackle illegal migration after two of the countries’ ministers held talks in Paris.
Home Secretary James Cleverly and French interior minister Gérald Darmanin signed off on plans to speed up the deployment of aerial surveillance equipment so police can spot and stop small boat crossings in the Channel quickly.
And they agreed on new attempts to disrupt the supply of materials for the boats through intelligence sharing.
The pair also discussed bringing together a meeting of the so-called Calais Group – which includes ministers from the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands – to talk about further actions they could work on together as they pledged to “go even further and faster in tackling illegal migration and build even closer law enforcement and security cooperation ties in 2024”.
According to the Home Office, over half of the 500 personnel the UK promised to fund in France to help with boat crossings have now been deployed, and UK liaison officers are now permanently based in Calais and Lille.
The staff form part of a £480m deal Rishi Sunak signed with Emmanuel Macron, with the cash to be spent between 2023 and 2026.
But since the start of the year, 1,180 migrants have made the dangerous journey across the Channel in 27 boats.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Cleverly said the cooperation between the UK’s “friends, neighbours and partners” in France was “vital for both countries and Europe” and he thanked them for their support.
He praised the work of French law enforcement “under increasingly difficult circumstances to save lives and disrupt organised criminal gangs”, calling their commitment to the task “exemplary”.
Mr Darmanin also said cooperation between the two countries was “essential in the very intense fight against violent and reckless smugglers’ networks”.