Immigration in the UK – a new deal with France to reduce illegal immigration

Immigration is currently a big political debate in many European countries. Whether it is for work, family reasons, political reasons, to flee war, or for studies; the UK has seen an increase when it comes to its migrant population.

For example, a rise In the number of visas has been observed, this can be linked to the UK leaving Europe. More work and study visas are produced for EU nationals who could come to the UK without one before.

However, asylum seekers are one of the UK’s government biggest issues when it comes to immigration.

The UK wants to stop asylum seekers crossing the Channel to enter the UK. The Government would like to reduce its asylum seekers’ intake; it has been one of its priorities since Brexit.

Suella Braverman, Home Secretary, declared that “illegal immigration was out of control”[1].

Crossing the Channel is very dangerous and more and more people attempt to make their way across the English Channel.

Organizations such as Migrant Help[2] have criticized the Home Secretary’s sayings that Britons are mostly affected by the costs of living.

According to the Government, 94% of the 50 000 immigrants who arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel were seeking asylum.

This is in those circumstances that the UK signed the 14th of November 2022 a deal to tackle illegal immigration across the English Channel.

The deal will enable France and the UK to enhance cooperation when it comes to illegal migration. Tackle any form of illegal migration is the main goal of this agreement within the framework of international law.

Since the number of illegal crossings of the English Channel keeps rising every year, France will be paid 72.2 million by the UK to increase by 40% the presence of security forces deployed on French beaches within the next 5 months.

The agreement falls within the Sandhurst treaty, which target is to reinforce cooperation between both countries regarding the management of their common border.

Since the beginning of this year, more than 40,000 small boats tempted to illegally cross the Channel.

Since the issue of illegal crossing was an area of conflict for both countries; finally reaching an agreement seemed to relieve any existing tensions.

The event that may have caused UK and France to come together to resolve this issue was the tragic death of 27 immigrants in November 2021, who never received help from both countries.

Crime groups[3] (referred to as OCG by the Government) are also one of the main reasons why the two countries are cooperating. Dismantling crime groups was one point on which Darmanin (France’s Home Secretary) and Braverman (UK’s Home Secretary) agreed upon.

Finding other ways to fight illegal crossing by deploying technological and human resources was also a point of debate.

This decision to tackle illegal immigration by the two countries has been largely criticized; especially by many NGOs.

Refugee Council has pointed out how the Governments were not focusing on the factors which force women, men, and children to go through this reckless crossing to reach the UK. According to the NGO, the agreement won’t be able to stop illegal crossings.

The signature of this agreement seems questionable on the UK’s side. Due to the economic crisis as well as the recession; the UK has nearly 1.25 million job vacancies and many businesses are struggling.

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Labour shortages are becoming more and more present in the country. Even if the rate of unemployment rose to 3.6% in September 2022, unemployment is at its lowest level since 1974.

However, would an increase in immigration in the UK and more flexibility from the Government help the country better during this economic crisis?

Studies show that most migrants come to the UK for work or studies, they are usually of working age. It has also been proven that an increase in immigration leads to an increase in the labour force hence, directly benefitting the economy.

For example, In late November, Rishi Sunak Prime Minister was urged by businesses to increase immigration to help companies regarding worker shortages[4].

The Confederation of British Industry has urged the Prime Minister to introduce a new deal.

However, Sunak has made it clear that illegal immigration was one of the main issues he wanted to tackle. As retained EU law won’t be applicable anymore in December 2023, the Sunak administration’s goal is to detach themselves from some EU laws.

Moreover, Sunak’s administration seems to desire to put forward British workers.

Jenrick (immigration minister) would like to focus on the five million inactive people in the UK and help them find a job rather than prioritise immigration.

Finding a solution to illegal immigration as well as work shortages seems to be the main areas of focus for Sunak’s administration.

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