Europe’s Refugee Crisis: UK pledges £500 million to help France stop small boats
At a summit in Paris between President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the UK announced its plans to give France almost £500 million over a course of three years to curb small boat crossings.
The money will go towards an extra 500 French law enforcement officers using “enhanced technology” such as drones to stop migrants crossing the English Channel in small, often flimsy boats, Sunak informed.
The new deal agreed by the two leaders will also see a new detention centre in France, adding to the 26 already in existence. However, the centre will not be fully operational until the end of 2026, implying not before an election in the UK which can be held no later than January 2025.
While France has also decided to contribute, the exact figure is yet to be unveiled.
In the UK, Labour’s shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said “[Rishi Sunak] needs to explain what was achieved by the hundreds of millions we’ve given the French authorities before, and why small boat crossings continued to go up regardless.”
Speaking at a press conference, Macron praised the joint efforts of UK and French teams working to stop small boats, adding the team had made 500 arrests and prevented 30,000 small boat crossings in the past year.
The British prime minister has made stopping the boats one of his key pledges for his government. While Macron said it was a “moment of reconnection”, Sunak described the summit in Paris as an “entente renewed”.
Earlier this week, Sunak unveiled a new yet controversial Illegal Migration Bill, which has drawn fierce criticism from a number of charities and the UN’s refugee agency. Under the plans, migrants entering the UK through illegal routes would not only be deported within 28 days, but also be banned from returning or claiming British citizenship in the future.
The bill is also likely to encounter legal challenges.