20230503 rishi sunak
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Image Credit: Reuters

London: The United Kingdom on Friday signed an agreement with the EU border agency Frontex to jointly crack down on irregular immigration, the government in London said.

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made stopping migrants from crossing the Channel on boats from France a priority before a general election due this year.

Friday's agreement provides for the exchange of intelligence between Frontex and the UK Border Force to help disrupt people-smuggling gangs, Britain's interior ministry said in a statement.

It also agrees to collaborate on the development of new technologies, such as the use of drones to protect borders, the Home Office added.

UK Border Force director general Phil Douglas and Frontex executive director Hans Leijtens signed the arrangement in London, witnessed by UK interior minister James Cleverly and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

"Organised immigration crime and people smuggling are global challenges that require shared solutions and ambitions," Cleverly said.

"Our landmark working arrangement between the UK and Frontex is another crucial step in tackling illegal migration, securing our borders and stopping the boats."

The UK government says the number of migrants arriving on England's south coast in rudimentary vessels fell by a third last year from a record high of 45,000 migrants in 2022.

The UK government called the deal "the latest step" in its "plan to tackle illegal migration and criminal gangs", with the issue set to feature prominently in the general election campaign.