By Michel Rose and Kylie MacLellan
PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) -Britain and France on Monday signed an agreement worth 72.2 million euros ($74.5 million) over the coming year to ramp up efforts to stop illegal migrants from making perilous journeys across the Channel.
The multi-year deal includes a 40% increase in the number of British-funded French officers patrolling French beaches in the next five months.
So far this year more than 40,000 people have crossed the Channel to Britain in small boats, up from 28,526 last year, putting pressure on new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and interior minister Suella Braverman to do more to stem the flow.
Last month Braverman said Britain faced an "invasion", as the government was criticised for conditions at an overcrowded migrant processing centre in southern England.
"It is in the interests of both the UK and French governments to work together to solve this complex problem," Braverman said after meeting French interior minister Gerald Darmanin in Paris.
Relations between Britain and France had soured in recent years, first under Boris Johnson who led the United Kingdom out of the European Union, and then further when Sunak's predecessor, Liz Truss, questioned whether French President Emmanuel Macron was a friend or foe.
Sunak has sought to reset this, including meeting with Macron at the COP27 climate summit last week.
"I'm confident that we can get the numbers down but I also want to be honest with people that it isn't a single thing that will magically solve this. We can't do it overnight," Sunak said after arriving in Bali for the G20 summit.
Franck Dhersin, the mayor of Teteghem in northern France, said migrants would just try again if they were stopped.
"They don't want to stay in Belgium, in Germany or in France. They want to go to England," he told BBC Radio.
Former British Europe minister Denis MacShane also expressed scepticism, telling Reuters the extra money was not likely to make much difference given the hundreds of miles of coastline that need patrolling.
Under the policy, British officers will also be embedded in French-led control rooms and on the ground with their counterparts for the first time to improve coordination and information sharing. Paris has previously resisted calls to have British immigration officers in France.
Peter Ricketts, former British ambassador to France, told Reuters the deal was a sign that trust was returning after relations hit "rock-bottom".
"The fact Sunak has shown more respect to serious cooperation has helped," he said.
The agreement will increase investment in surveillance technology, drones, detection dog teams, CCTV and helicopters, as well as supporting reception and removal centres in France for migrants whose journeys are prevented.
Britain, which has said more than 30,000 illegal crossing attempts have been prevented since the start of the year, has said Albanians are behind a surge in arrivals and that many are seeking to abuse Britain's modern slavery laws by claiming to be a victim of trafficking in order to avoid being deported.
British government figures released this month showed the number of modern slavery referrals was at its highest ever in the third quarter of this year. The most common nationality was Albanian, making up 28% of the 4,586 claims.
The figures showed Albanians made up 42% of people travelling on small boats between May and September this year, with just over 11,000 Albanians arriving.
The new agreement sets up a taskforce to try to reverse that rise.
($1 = 0.9693 euros)
(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Tassilo Hummel and Ingrid Melander in Paris, and Muvija M and Andrew MacAskill in London; Editing by Susan Fenton, Kate Holton, William Maclean and Angus MacSwan)