French mayor says it's nearly impossible to stop migrants coming to UK

Watch: Home secretary signs Channel crossings deal with France

The mayor of a town in France has said it is almost impossible to stop migrants crossing the Channel to the UK.

On Monday, the British government signed a multi-million pound deal with France in an effort to curb Channel crossings.

More than 40,000 people have tried to make the crossing so far this year.

Franck Dhersin, mayor of Téteghem-Coudekerque-Village near Dunkirk, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday: "There are more and more small boats crossing the channel. We have gone from 28,000 to 40,000 this year.

"I understand that is becoming a real problem for the English."

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Monday November 14, 2022.
A group of people brought in to Dover, Kent, on board a UK Border Force vessel on Monday. (PA)

"I can assure you because I am there that a lot of police are watching the coast, but we are talking here about 175km of beach and dunes where it is very easy to hide," he added.

"Not all police officers can permanently devote themselves because it would be to the detriment of the normal work of the police in the city."

When asked if migrants stopped from crossing will try again, he said: "Yes. The people don't want to stay in France, 90% want to go across the Channel.

"They want to go to England because they have an uncle, a brother, a sister, a member of family in England, so they don't want to stay in Belgium or Germany or France, they want to go to England to see members of their family."

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Under the new deal, British immigration officers will be stationed in French control rooms for the first time.

It will also see a 40% boost in the number of officers patrolling beaches in northern France.

Further measures signed off in Paris by home secretary Suella Braverman and French interior minister Gerald Darmanin include drones and night vision equipment to help officers detect crossings, as well as stepping up surveillance around ports to prevent migrants entering the UK in lorries, with more CCTV and sniffer dogs.

The fresh agreement means the cost paid by the UK to France will rise to 72m euros (£63m) a year.

Foreign secretary James Cleverly declined to specify a target on how much a new deal with France on migrants could cut crossing numbers.

He told BBC Breakfast: "We want to bring the numbers down significantly. That is the whole point of these arrangements.

"The whole point is that we are trying to spend less money than we are currently having to spend housing migrants."

Home Secretary Suella Braverman signs a historic deal with the French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, at the Interior Ministry in Paris, France, to tackle the small boats crisis as pressure mounts on the British immigration system, with Channel crossings topping 40,000 so far this year. Picture date: Monday November 14, 2022.
Home secretary Suella Braverman signs a deal with French interior minister Gerald Darmanin to tackle the small boats crisis in the Channel. (PA)

But mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the deal will not be enough.

He told Times Radio: "My concern is what the government’s doing today is sort of throwing some red meat to people who are concerned about migration and not addressing the core issue we’ve had over the last 11 months, 40,000 people crossing the Channel in little boats.

"So this tough rhetoric clearly isn’t working by itself."

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “The government must take a more comprehensive approach and create an orderly, fair and humane asylum system that recognises that the vast majority of those taking dangerous journey are refugees escaping for their lives.

"It needs to face up to the fact it is a global issue which will not be resolved by enforcement measures alone."

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK's refugee and migrant rights director, said: "This deal is just the same as previous deals – spending money and resources on intercepting and obstructing people crossing the Channel, while doing nothing to address their need for safe access to an asylum system.

"Perpetuating this dreadful human suffering by recycling the same failed response to punish and deter desperate people in miserable and unsafe conditions has become mindless to the point of cruelty."

The Ministry of Defence said 853 people were detected crossing the English Channel in small boats on Sunday, on top of 972 crossings on Saturday.

The number of crossings this year now stands at 41,738. The total crossings last year reached 28,526.

Watch: Deal struck between UK and France to curb migrant Channel crossings