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Britain, France announce new treaty over migrants, Calais

France and Britain signed a new treaty Thursday aimed at speeding up asylum applications for migrants entitled to claim refuge in the UK.

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James Masters (CNN)
LONDON (CNN) — France and Britain signed a new treaty Thursday aimed at speeding up asylum applications for migrants entitled to claim refuge in the UK.

The new pact, which French President Emmanuel Macron said was the first border treaty between the two countries in 15 years, will cover unaccompanied children and will reduce the processing times for cases from six months to one month for adults, and from six months to 25 days for minors.

Ahead of the meeting, Macron indicated France would not tolerate another camp being built in Calais, saying the port town will not be used as a "side door" for migrants to gain access to the UK.

Speaking alongside British Prime Minister Theresa May at the UK's Sandhurst Military Academy, Macron said the treaty would ensure a "more human" approach to border control.

"We will have a smarter and more efficient management of the joint border," he said. "We want to develop trade and economic cooperation, and for that we need a very safe border."

'No more Jungle'

Earlier this week, Macron said he would challenge Britain on accepting unaccompanied minors, adding he would be seeking some "specific responses" from London on the matter.

"The treaties signed today, for me, provide for the framework in which we shall be able in the coming months to bring about a concrete answer so that we no longer have migrants living in Calais, as we were seeing in the spring of 2016," Macron told a news conference Thursday.

According to the Elysee Palace, there are 300 to 500 migrants living in Calais, down from 2,000 some 14 months ago.

Many are living in makeshift camps and attempting to find their way across the English Channel.

The French government recorded 115,000 attempts to enter the UK from Calais in 2017 compared to 165,000 the previous year.

Le Touquet agreement

The meeting between the two leaders came on the day the UK announced a new £44.5 million package to bolster UK border controls in France to help tackle illegal immigration and people smuggling rings.

Macron has been outspoken in his desire to see Britain increase its spending in his pursuit of reshaping the 2003 Le Touquet agreement, a deal that allows the UK to effectively have a border on French land and vice-versa.

The deal means the UK can screen passengers and cargo traveling to the UK while still in France, and allows for action to be taken against illegal migrants before they reach Britain.

It also allows French officers to make checks on people traveling from the UK to France and farther into Europe.

The additional financial package will be spent on security fencing, CCTV and detection technology in the French city of Calais as well as other ports along the English Channel.

'National interests'

"What we are doing is working with the French authorities and providing support to ensure that we enhance the security of our border," May said of the decision.

"This is in our national interests. It is also in the interests of France to ensure that we have as secure a border as possible at Calais and other ports."

The two leaders held extensive talks with senior ministers during a bilateral meeting, which touched on security, military cooperation and migration.

They also shared a working lunch at a local pub in May's Maidenhead constituency.

In other developments, Britain said it would deploy three RAF Chinook helicopters in Mali to assist French forces fighting against Islamist militants.

Meanwhile, France has pledged to send more troops to bolster a British battalion in Estonia amid tensions between NATO and Russia.

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