France Snubs BoJo Offer of Joint Calais Patrols, Tells UK to Focus on ‘Legal Immigration Paths’
05:42 GMT 03.12.2021 (Updated: 19:29 GMT 03.11.2022)
After the death of 27 migrants trying to reach Britain across the Channel, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 25 November published an open letter to French President Emmanuel Macron with a set of proposals on how to prevent the dangerous crossings. Among other measures, it suggested joint patrols to prevent boats from leaving the French coast.
France has officially rejected Boris Johnson’s proposal
to conduct joint British-French patrols to stem the flow of migrants across the English Channel.
Prime Minister Jean Castex, in a letter to his UK counterpart, suggested the British systems be reformed to offer “legal immigration paths” for asylum seekers.
“We have always agreed to examine and discuss in good faith British proposals for closer cooperation. We have accepted some, we have declined others. We cannot accept, for example, that British police officers or soldiers patrol our coasts. It comes from our sovereignty. I know how sensitive your government is to respecting everyone's sovereignty,” Jean Castex wrote, according to Le Monde.
According to the French PM, over 700 police officers and gendarmes were policing the area around Dunkirk and Calais, allowing Paris to “contain the phenomenon, not to bring a lasting response”.
People who are desperate to reach the British coast only spend "a few days and sometimes a few hours" in France, pointed out the Prime Minister, as he urged London to do more to deter irregular migration.
Responding to yet another UK-offered solution to the Channel migrant crisis, he continued:
“Nor can we accept the United Kingdom's practice of push backs at sea, which would endanger the lives of migrants and would not be in accordance with the law of the sea.”
Instead, Jean Castex emphasised the need for increased intelligence sharing, as he vowed to deploy “an ever-increasing number of reservists to our coastline."
Castex added that France was ready to further pursue “operational cooperation" with the UK in a “constructive spirit of mutual trust."
A UK government spokesperson was cited as saying:
“We stand ready to discuss all options in the spirit of our close cooperation and partnership, and as a shared, global challenge it is vital we address illegal migration collectively and urgently.”
The official response from France came as Boris Johnson wrote an open letter to President Emmanuel Macron on 25 November, outlining his five-point plan on how to prevent tragic incidents
such as the one that had claimed 27 lives on 25 November.
Migrants attempting to reach Britain’s shores died when their inflatable dinghy sank just a few miles off the French port of Calais.
The UK and France have been involved in a diplomatic spat over how best to tackle the Channel migrant crisis.
28 November 2021, 20:56 GMT
Johnson suggested joint patrols to prevent migrant boats from leaving French beaches; using more advanced technology, such as sensors and radar; reciprocal maritime patrols in territorial waters; better intelligence sharing; committing to "immediate work" to achieve a bilateral returns agreement between Paris and London.
Johnson’s letter to Macron, sent as a tweet, argued the case for a “returns agreement”, which would be the "single biggest deterrent" to migrants attempting the journey.
According to the UK PM, if France were to start taking back all migrants who land on Britain’s shores, this would “significantly reduce – if not stop – the crossings, saving thousands of lives by fundamentally breaking the business model of the criminal gangs” involved in people trafficking.
The manner in which Johnson’s letter had been sent, with Macron not having received it before Johnson tweeted it, had infuriated Paris, with the French President reportedly branding the UK PM a “clown” with “the attitude of a vulgarian”.
An irate France withdrew the UK's invitation to join weekend talks with other European ministers on the migrant issue, with Darmanin saying on French television channel BFMTV:
"When there are serious diplomatic exchanges... and lives that are at stake... and some minutes later you see that a letter, which no one has ever mentioned before, is published on Twitter from the British Prime Minister to the President of the French Republic before the President of the Republic has received it, it's a bit peculiar."
Meanwhile, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel set off on a tour of European capitals as part of a scaled up effort to resolve the migrant issue.
On Thursday, she met with Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese in Rome.
"Both agreed there needs to be rapid discussion on a new Europe-wide initiative for cooperation to tackle organised immigration crime… They also agreed the importance of returns to third countries and readmission agreements between the UK and Europe as an important part of the overall effort to tackle the irregular migration problem," stated the Home Office.
The number of migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats has risen almost one hundred-fold over the past three years, according to Home Office data.
Almost 26,000 people are believed to have arrived in Britain this year after crossing the Channel in small boats.
The UK Nationality and Borders Bill, containing proposed reforms to asylum and immigration laws and currently going through parliament, would make it a criminal offence to help an asylum seeker gain entry to the UK.