UK ‘to get access to EU intelligence on migrant crisis in new deal’ – report

Officials in London and Brussels have reportedly concluded the substance of an agreement which is in the ‘final stages’.

Richard Wheeler
Thursday 05 October 2023 16:35 BST
Rishi Sunak is to meet European leaders at a summit in Granada where the problem of immigration will be up for discussion (Hollie Adams/PA)
Rishi Sunak is to meet European leaders at a summit in Granada where the problem of immigration will be up for discussion (Hollie Adams/PA)

The UK is reportedly set to sign a deal with the EU’s border agency to get access to the bloc’s intelligence on migration.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported officials in London and Brussels have concluded the substance of the agreement, which sources said is in the “final stages” and could be announced this week.

It would allow domestic agencies to monitor the entirety of the EU’s external borders rather than just shared frontiers, according to the paper.

No 10 and the Home Office have been contacted for comment.

We cannot allow criminal gangs to decide who comes to Europe's shores

Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister

It comes as Rishi Sunak meets European leaders at a summit in Granada, where Downing Street said he will announce bilateral initiatives with Belgium, Bulgaria and Serbia to increase intelligence-sharing and operational co-operation.

Under the plan, the UK would work with Belgium to try to disrupt organised immigration crime and clandestine entry to Britain and seek to co-operate further with Serbia on prosecuting and disrupting criminal networks.

The Telegraph reported that the Frontex deal would build on these bilateral pacts by deepening the Border Force’s understanding of smuggler routes through Turkey and the western Balkans.

Glyn Williams, former director general for migration and borders at the Home Office, told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “The thing about the small boats problem is that I don’t think there’s any sort of magic bullet solution, single solution that’s going to solve it.

“So I don’t think any single measure like this Frontex agreement will be in and of itself game-changing.

“But if you can have an incremental approach of lots of agreements, and especially if you can start to generate political goodwill and dialogue with Europe so that Europe is playing as a team in this struggle, I think that’s going to be for the good.”

Support for Ukraine will also be discussed at the summit, including work among European allies to provide weapons to Kyiv and the need for Black Sea grain shipments.

Mr Sunak is expected to confirm allocations of UK humanitarian aid to help the war-torn country over the winter.

I don't think any single measure like this Frontex agreement will be in and of itself game changing

Glyn Williams, ex Home Office official

The talks come as the UK claimed Russia may use sea mines to target civilian shipping in the Black Sea.

The UK Government said it was releasing its assessment of declassified information in a bid to deter any such incident occurring.

“Levels of illegal migration to mainland Europe are the highest they have been in nearly a decade. With thousands of people dying at sea, propelled by people smugglers, the situation is both immoral and unsustainable,” Mr Sunak said ahead of the summit.

“We cannot allow criminal gangs to decide who comes to Europe’s shores.

“When it comes to facing down the threat from (Russian president Vladimir) Putin, confronting the risks and opportunities of AI or dealing with illegal migration, there is strength in unity.”

The Prime Minister met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday, though migration was not mentioned in a readout of their discussions.

“The leaders welcomed the strong partnership between the UK and Germany on issues of shared critical importance to both our countries, from economic growth to energy security and strong defence forces,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“The Prime Minister noted Germany’s significant military and humanitarian support to Ukraine, and set out the UK’s plans to support Ukraine’s successful counter-offensive and long-term security and recovery. They welcomed the strong pan-European unity at the EPC on rejecting Russian aggression.

Home Office figures show more than 25,000 people have been detected crossing the English Channel in small boats so far this year.

There were 45,774 arrivals in 2022.

The total number of small boat arrivals so far this year is about 23% below the equivalent number at this point last year.

Just over 33,000 people had made the crossing by October 2 2022, compared with 25,330 detected so far in 2023.

Mr Sunak has made stopping the crossings one of his key pledges for this year and last month he held talks with Italy’s hard-right leader Giorgia Meloni, whom he will meet again at Thursday’s summit.

The pair have become firm allies, having united over their stance of cutting irregular immigration into their countries.

The Prime Minister will co-chair a meeting with his Italian counterpart in Spain, focused on “illegal migration and organised crime”, Downing Street said.

The UK Parliament passed the Illegal Migration Act earlier this year following a lengthy tussle between the House of Commons and House of Lords.

The legislation aims to prevent people from claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means.

The Government also hopes the changes will ensure detained people are promptly removed, either to their home country or a third country such as Rwanda.

The Government’s legal battle over its Rwanda deportation policy is set to be heard at the Supreme Court in October.

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