Suella Braverman to sign revised deal with France on Channel migrants

channel crossing
French police officers pass a deflated dinghy on the beach in Wimereux near Calais as migrants continued to launch small boats along the coastline in a bid to cross the Channel towards the UK, on Thursday November 18 courtesy (Image: PA)

The home secretary will sign the agreement with French interior minister Gerald Darmanin today.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman will travel to Paris to sign a new joint declaration with French officials to ramp up efforts to stop migrant crossings in the Channel.

The home secretary will sign the agreement with French interior minister Gerald Darmanin on Monday morning.

According to the Financial Times, the agreement will significantly increase the 200 French officers and volunteers who operate on Channel beaches and encourage France to aim for a higher proportion of migrants prevented from leaving.

It will also include a rise in payments from London to Paris and a closer relationship between the two countries’ border policing teams, the newspaper reported.

So far this year, more than 40,000 people have made the perilous crossing, the highest number on record.

The British government has always stressed that there is no single solution to the problem of thousands of migrants risking their lives crossing the Channel in small boats.

But one approach tried in recent years has been to try to stop people from leaving French shores. There are thousands of people in coastal towns there, who have travelled from other countries and are waiting for their opportunity to cross the Channel to claim asylum in the UK.

As well as extra officers and patrols, the British money will allow more use of drones and night vision equipment, and will also be spent on boosting reception and removal centres in France.

French ports will receive investment to increase the use of CCTV and detection dog teams to prevent illegal entry to the UK via lorries. UK observers will be embedded in French control rooms, and French observers embedded in UK control rooms – to help inform each other’s deployments.

The deal had been close for several months but the French government were reluctant to finalise it until there was a stable government in the UK.

On Friday, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and his French counterpart Catherine Colonna issued a statement stressing the “urgency of tackling all forms of illegal migration”.

Meanwhile, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have complained they were forced to bear the brunt of migrants crossing the Mediterranean and called for changes in European Union policy.

The four southern European states said in a joint statement that responsibility should be shared more widely across the bloc when it comes to sheltering people rescued by charity boats.

This should be a European conference.


Leaked report on EU pushback show thousands of migrants drowned

EU border agency Frontex covered up illegal migrant pushbacks, says the report.

Frontex coordinates search-and-rescue and border interception operations on behalf of the 27 EU countries, however, a leaked report has shown senior staff at EU border agency Frontex were involved in covering up the illegal pushbacks of migrants from Greece to Turkey in violation of their “fundamental rights”, a report has concluded.

The report — from OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog — said top managers committed “serious misconduct and other irregularities” in covering up pushback incidents, not investigating them or handling them correctly. Names within the report were redacted.

“In doing so, they hindered the capacity of Frontex to fully comply with its responsibilities, namely ensuring the protection and promotion of fundamental rights,” the report read.

DER SPIEGEL has already revealed most of these transgressions in joint research conducted together with Lighthouse Reports. With its report, however, OLAF, an EU authority, is now officially establishing the breaches of law and misconduct, documenting some pretty shocking details along the way.

Investigators have taken 129 pages to document the involvement of Frontex, the EU’s border agency, in the illegal activities of the Greek Coast Guard. Border guards systematically dump asylum-seekers adrift at sea in the Aegean – either in rickety boats or on inflatable life rafts. The investigators reviewed private emails and WhatsApp messages from Fabrice Leggeri, the former head of Frontex, and his team. They interviewed witnesses and seized documents and videos.

OLAF investigators poured over information from open sources and media reports, sought documents from Frontex and the European Commission and interviewed 20 witnesses to investigate accusations of possible involvement or covering up of illegal pushbacks and accusations of misconduct or irregularities.

Pressure on European Commission Grows

The Olaf report also raises questions about the European Commission, which each year transfers millions of euros to Athens. The money is earmarked to help the Greeks manage migration according to EU law – not for abandoning people in life rafts without motors on the open sea.

Numerous media outlets revealed the illegal practice of pushbacks of refugees  at Europe’s external borders to the public many months ago, but the Greek government has nonetheless dismissed the reports as “fake news.”

At the same time, the OLAF report shows how Frontex, the European border agency, has been complicit in these egregious human rights violations.

  • In repeat incidents, Frontex management withheld cases of possible human rights violations from its own fundamental rights officer.
  • The agency suspended its aerial surveillance to stop recording violations of the law.
  • It co-financed some of the Greek units that carried out the pushbacks.
  • According to the report, it misled the bodies that are responsible for overseeing the agency.
  • And although it should be clear after reading the report that the pushbacks were of a “serious nature or are likely to persist,” Frontex did not terminate the joint operations as stipulated by Article 46 of the agency’s regulations.

You can download the full report here.

OLAF-UntersuchungsberichtTo protect the sources, SPIEGEL and FragDenStaat have manually typed up the report, parts of which have been redacted, and are publishing it in a similar layout.

PDF — kB

Some experts, including lawyer Laura Salzano, argue that the European Union should release the report publicly – in part so that victims of the pushbacks can use the findings in court. And it is quite possible that will happen soon. Lawyers with the NGO front-LEX have already filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice based on the report’s findings.

“We are looking at 43,000 toddlers, women and men who were kidnapped by European agents from safety in EU territory.

35,000 abandoned at sea to drowned by Frontex and Greece in 2.5 years, with the full support of the commission and all member states,” said Omer Shatz and Iftach Cohen from Front-Lex, who is taking the agency to court in response to the allegations and report.

In recent years, Frontex’s annual budget has grown from an initial 6 million euros to 754 million euros. Budget discussions are currently taking place in closed meetings to determine how many millions more the agency will receive in 2023.

It is clear to most people that people from third-world countries affected by global warming, famine, war and adverse poverty will and do seek better, safer lives, for themselves and their families. Even though the streets of European countries may not glitter with gold, they certainly in most cases do not run with blood. No one can blame others who only seek better lives, however, at this stage, it would seem common sense that world leaders should come together to discuss the practical ways they can create new fairer better solutions that would not only stop people from dying in their desire for safety and betterment but in some cases, as discovered in the leaked EU report stop people from forcefully pushing back other people back where they are left to drown.

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