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UK, France agree new plan to curb Channel migrant crossings

November 28, 2020 GMT

LONDON (AP) — The British government said Saturday that it had struck an agreement with France to double the number of French police patrolling beaches in the country’s north in an attempt to stop people crossing the English Channel in small boats.

Britain’s Home Office said Home Secretary Priti Patel and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had agreed on the measure as part of efforts to make the route “unviable” for people-smugglers. The agreement also will boost surveillance using “drones, radar equipment, optronic binoculars and fixed cameras,” the U.K. said.

It said the two countries had agreed to spend 31.4 million euros ($41 million) on the measures.

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Migrants have long used northern France as a launching point to reach Britain — usually in trucks or on ferries —and the issue has long strained relations between the two countries.

Many migrants appear to have turned to small boats organized by smugglers during the coronavirus pandemic because virus restrictions have reduced traffic between France and Britain. More than 8,000 people have made the dangerous journey so far this year, up from about 1,800 in all of 2019.

Last month, a family from Iran, including two parents and their children aged 6 and 9, died when their boat capsized in the Channel. Their 15-month-old son is missing and presumed drowned.

Aid and human rights groups say the best way to stop the journeys is to provide safe routes for people to seek asylum in Britain.