UK and EU to jointly tackle illegal immigration

James Cleverly🇬🇧 @JamesCleverly
James Cleverly, Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, meets EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, to sign a landmark deal with Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, to tackle illegal migration and human smuggling.

The UK and its former EU partners have agreed to work together more closely in their efforts to tackle illegal migration, a further sign of the thawing in relations between the two sides since Brexit. On February 22, the government announced that UK border agencies and Frontex, the EU’s border and coast guard agency, will be able to access each other’s intelligence to secure borders and tackle organized immigration crime. They are also to undertake joint training, deploy staff from one side to the other, and collaborate on research and development on new technologies.

The agreement, to be signed later in London, contains no provision for bilateral returns. Neither side will be obliged to take any asylum-seekers under terms of the burden-sharing arrangements that apply to the EU’s 27 member states.

“Organized immigration crime and people smuggling are global challenges that require shared solutions and ambitions,” Britain’s Home Secretary James Cleverly declared, describing the “landmark” working arrangement between the UK and Frontex as “another crucial step in tackling illegal migration, securing our borders and stopping the boats,” he added.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who took office in October 2022, has worked steadily to improve the UK’s relationship with its EU neighbours, despite lingering trade friction and mistrust. In 2023, he agreed to Britain’s rejoining Horizon Europe, for example, the EU’s $100 billion science-sharing programme. Cutting illegal immigration is one of the main pillars of his leadership platform. More than 29,000 people arrived in the U.K. in small boats in 2023, crossing the English Channel. Some 46,000 made the crossing the year before.

Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats” has left him open to charges of failure to achieve one of his main objectives at a time when a general election is in the offing. The opinion polls show Sunak’s Conservative Party lagging way behind the main opposition Labour Party, while losing support to a new hard-right movement that is heavily focused on the immigration issue.

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