Reality Check: Why The New Migrant Deal With France Isn't All That

The UK will only pay France around £9million more than under the previous deal.
Suella Braverman and Gérald Darmanin / migrants leaving the French coast
Suella Braverman and Gérald Darmanin / migrants leaving the French coast

Suella Braverman has signed a “new” deal with France to help stop small boats making the perilous journey across the Channel.

The home secretary said the pact will “significantly increase” the number of French officers patrolling beaches and ensure the UK and French are working “hand in hand”.

More than 40,000 people have crossed in small boats so far this year, up from 28,526 last year and 8,404 the year before.

The government is under fierce pressure to act and the deal to deport migrants to Rwanda remains a failure.

Some news reports boldly described Monday’s new agreement with France as a “landmark” deal.

However, the deal is only around £9 million more than the one struck by Braverman’s predecessor Priti Patel last year.

Here, HuffPost UK talks you through what is new and why the deal might not be all it seems.

What Is Actually New?

The UK will now pay France £63 million — a slight increase on the £54 million agreed by Patel last summer.

For the first time, UK police officers will now be embedded with their French counterparts in control rooms and on beaches.

The number of officers patrolling the French coast in a bid to stop people leaving will increase from 200 to 300.

Braverman said the money would pay for a “40 per cent uplift” in the number of French police patrolling French beaches.

The agreement signed with French interior minister Gerald Darmanin includes drones and night vision equipment to help officers detect crossings.

They will also step up surveillance around ports to prevent migrants entering the UK in lorries, with more CCTV and sniffer dogs.

A new “taskforce” will also be set up, focused on the recent rise in “Albanian nationals and organised crime groups” exploiting illegal migration routes.

Britain and France also pledged to ramp up co-operation with a meeting of the “Calais Group” of neighbouring countries to be scheduled as soon as possible.

Reality Check

The deal is only around £9 million more than the one struck last year. That might sound like a lot of money, but in government spending terms it is not that much.

To put into context, the government’s failed plan to deport migrants to Rwanda cost an initial £120 million to set up (and the government is still refusing to reveal the full costs).

The deal sounds much more like a small boost to the original agreement, rather than a radical new scheme.

Experts point out that the French have always been reluctant to intercept boats leaving their shores.

Lucy Moreton, professional officer for the Union for Borders, Immigration and Customs, said the government’s deal failed to address the “sticking points” keeping numbers high.

She told Times Radio that interrupting migrants to “just let them go to try again” would not have the required impact and nothing in the deal suggested that “the French are going to move away from that position”.

She said intercepting migrants so they do not try to get to the UK again was not something the French “have ever wanted to do”, because from the French perspective, “they are going the right way and it’s entirely understandable that they are not very keen to interrupt that”.

Others have questioned what the UK got for its last £54 million deal with France after record numbers of migrants continued to cross the Channel.

Government figures show 972 people arrived in 22 boats on Saturday, followed by 853 people in 26 boats on Sunday, taking the provisional total for the year so far to 41,729.

Even Braverman has conceded that there are “no quick fixes” or “silver bullet” to the crisis of migrants trying to cross the Channel.

Previous Deals

Monday’s deal follows a list of similar agreements with France and announcements in recent years.

12 July 2020: Patel: “Today, I have signed an agreement with the French to create a joint intelligence cell which will crack down on the gangs behind this vile people-smuggling operation...”

28 November 2020: Patel: “Today’s agreement is a significant moment for our two countries, stepping up our joint action to tackle illegal migration.”

20 July 2021: Patel: “The government is addressing the challenge of illegal migration for the first time in over two decades through comprehensive reform of our asylum system...”

16 November 2021: A joint statement from the home secretary and the French interior minister agreed to strengthen operational cooperation further.

6 October 2022: Prime minister Liz Truss and French president Emmanuel Macron further agreed to deepen cooperation on illegal migration.

What Charities Say

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the deal fails to address the factors behind people choosing to put themselves at risk by trying to reach Britain — and will therefore “do little to end the crossings”.

He called for a focus on creating more “safe routes” and working with the EU and other countries to “share responsibility” for the “global challenge”, while urging the government to do “far more” to reduce the backlogs in the current asylum system.

“It needs to face up to the fact it is a global issue which will not be resolved by enforcement measures alone,” he said.

Amnesty International UK’s Steve Valdez-Symonds said the new deal was “just the same as previous deals”.

He added: “Unless the UK government accepts its share of people into its asylum system, particularly people with family and connections in the UK, there seems little prospect that anything is going to change, let alone improve.”

What Are Politicians Saying?

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock described the plan as “too little too late”.

He pointed to the huge backlog of asylum claims in the UK, telling Sky News: “The fact that the processing system is broken means that if someone wants to pay a people smuggler $10,000 to get on one of those small boats they know that when they get to the UK they will be left in the system for years waiting for their case to be reviewed — so it’s a safe bet.”

The Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said it was time the government accepted that the best way to tackle smugglers is to provide safe and legal routes for refugees.

“I’ve lost count of all the supposedly ‘historic’ announcements from Conservative home secretaries to tackle these dangerous crossings, but every time the problem has only got worse,” he said.

Carmichael also took aim at the “immoral” Rwanda plan, saying it was “utterly unworkable, and incredibly expensive” for taxpayers.

“The current system is broken and consecutive Conservative home secretaries have only made problems worse.”

Meanwhile, the Labour mayor of London Sadiq Khan suggested the Tories were “throwing red meat” at people troubled by migration.

He told Times Radio the UK government’s “tough rhetoric” was “clearly not working by itself”, and that paying more money and putting more boots on the ground would not make much of a difference.


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