PARIS (AP) – France and Britain signed an agreement on Sunday to share information in their joint struggle against human traffickers who are illegally smuggling migrants across the English Channel.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the deal to create a Franco-British intelligence unit would allow for better exchanges of information about smuggling networks.
British Interior Secretary Priti Patel said the new unit “will crack down on gangs behind vile people who will smuggle”. Patel crossed the English Channel to visit the city of Calais, in the north of France, to sign the agreement with Darmanin. She described the levels of illegal migration across the waterway as “unsustainable”. Crossing attempts are emerging.
“Despite all the measures taken by the authorities so far – intercepting boats, making arrests, returning people to France and putting responsible criminals behind bars – the numbers continue to rise,” said Patel. “It just can’t go on.”
People smuggling across the Canal and migrant camps that regularly appear along France’s northern coast have proved to be an intractable problem for both governments. Britain’s previously strong economy and the need for agricultural labor and restaurants attracted migrants from all over the world who could speak a little English. Calais, over the years, involuntarily hosted camps of rudimentary and overcrowded migrants that emerged, slums so poor and violent that one of them was nicknamed “the jungle”.
The new unit will consist of French and British officials and will exploit intelligence to help prevent crossings and dismantle smuggling gangs. Patel described it as “the beginning of a new operational approach”.
Darmanin said he pressured Patel for additional British aid, including police and equipment, to eradicate smugglers “who profit from the human misery of people who want to cross the Channel and who are not punished enough”.
“It is very important that our British friends realize that if migrants come here in Calais, it is not for the beauty of the city, but to cross the Canal,” he said. “The British government has done a lot to protect the French coast, but we need more.”
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