UK, European neighbours agree to curb illegal immigration

French police look at the coastline from one of the beaches used by migrants to leave by small dinghies the coast of northern France to cross the English Channel in an attempt to reach Britain, in Sangatte near Calais, France, November 30, 2022. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

LONDON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Ministers from Britain, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands on Thursday agreed plans to step up co-operation to tackle irregular immigration across Europe and try to stop people smugglers working in the English Channel.

Britain's interior minister Suella Braverman met her counterparts from the group of northern European countries, called the Calais Group, in Brussels to discuss migration.

The number of migrants arriving illegally in England on small boats has risen to a record level of more than 40,000 this year, reigniting an issue that has in the past provoked bitter rows between Britain and its European neighbours, particularly France.

Britain and France agreed a 72.2 million euros deal in November aimed at stopping the flow of small boats across the Channel, a dangerous journey across busy shipping lanes, and Braverman said Thursday's agreement built on this.

"Countries across Europe must work closely together to tackle illegal migration and crack down on the people smugglers before these issues reach our borders," Braverman said in a statement.

"The Calais Group have held constructive discussions today on bringing solutions that will benefit all our countries and to ensure the evil criminals who profit in human misery are targeted and brought swiftly to justice."

The ministers also agreed to support a working arrangement between Britain and Europe's external border agency, Frontex, to try to reduce the number of arrivals by enabling countries to improve registration of irregular migrants and ensure faster asylum and returns procedures.

Frontex has a particular focus on tackling migration from Western Balkans countries, the statement added, of particular interest to Britain given that Albanians made up 42% of people arriving on small boats between May and September.

Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by William James

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