France, UK working on new deal to combat illegal migration ahead of summit

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France and Britain are working on a new deal to thwart migrants crossing the Channel, which could be agreed at a summit between leaders Emmanuel Macron and Rishi Sunak later this week, a French official said Wednesday.

Macron is set to welcome British Prime Minister Sunak to Paris on Friday for the first summit between the neighbours in five years.

Preventing migrants from crossing the Channel from France to Britain is set to be a leading topic of talks, with Sunak having made stopping migrant boat crossings one of his domestic priorities.

“We are in the process of finalising the terms of a strengthening of our operational cooperation,” an aide to Macron told reporters on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

The deal would focus on “increasing the resources deployed to manage this common border, with multi-year financing in order to improve the planning of human resources, equipment and infrastructure,” the aide said.

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Britain agreed to pay France another 72.2 million euros ($74.5 million) under a deal last November that aimed to deploy an additional 350 people to detect and prevent migrant boat crossings.

Around 800 people including regular police, border control forces and customs officers are deployed daily in anti-migrant operations in northern France, according to recent figures from French authorities.  

The British government outlined a new draft immigration law on Tuesday that aims to deter migrants boarding dinghies to cross the Channel, one of the world’s busiest shipping channels.

The law, which would prevent people who arrived in the UK illegally from making an asylum claim, provoked an outcry from rights groups.

“At this stage we do not see any major impact on the French coast assuming that the law enters into force,” the French official said after underlining that legal appeals were likely.

Rights groups and the United Nations have said that the legislation would mean Britain breaking its commitments under European and UN conventions on asylum.

The meeting of Macron and Sunak in Paris is expected to reset relations between western Europe’s biggest military and diplomatic powers after years of tensions.

The departure of abrasive British prime minister Boris Johnson as well as the war in Ukraine are seen by analysts as bringing the estranged allies back together.

“We are coming out of a period when we have not had a summit in five years,” a second French presidential aide said.

“We’re renewing things at the moment, putting things back in order, and preparing for the future.”

Joint announcements on the training of Ukrainian forces, as well as fresh cooperation on future weapons development and nuclear energy are also expected after the working lunch and talks between the leaders.

(AFP)

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