Britain should stop giving us lessons over migrant crossings, says France

Britain should stop "giving lessons" to France on tackling Channel migrants, says the French interior minister on the eve of a crunch meeting on Monday with Priti Patel to tackle the crisis.

"Britain is in no position to be giving lessons to us," Gerald Darmanin told Cnews television amid growing Anglo-French tensions over the surge in migrants crossing the Channel in small boats.

He also said Britain "should stop using us as a punch-ball in their domestic politics," amid growing criticism in the UK over the failure of the French to prevent the migrants reaching the UK.

The tensions have added to a litany of post-Brexit strains between Britain and France that also include a dispute over fishing rights that has threatened to spill over into a full-blown trade war.

Mr Darmanin has pledged to intercept every migrant in return for £54 million of UK funds for extra patrols and surveillance. But last week a daily record of 1,185 migrants reached the UK on Thursday, with just 99 stopped by the French.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, told the Telegraph at the weekend that she is seeking a “shared solution” to the crisis with its EU neighbours but also wants to see “faster and further” progress in reversing the surge. 

She is expected to press Mr Darmanin at the meeting in Paris to accelerate his plans to to intercept every migrant.

Migrants being brought into Dover, Kent on a lifeboat

Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

However, in an unusually blunt criticism of the UK, Mr Darmanin implied it was the fault of the British government that so many migrants wanted to cross the Channel.

He accused British activists based in northern France around Calais and Dunkirk of impeding the work of the security forces.

"I will remind my British counterpart that the NGOs that prevent the police and the gendarmerie from working are largely British NGOs with British citizens who are on French soil," he said.

And he added: "The smugglers, who organise networks and exploit women and children, are very often based in Britain."

He also argued that migrants were encouraged to leave for Britain because its labour market relied in part on "irregular workers employed at low cost".

"If the British changed their legislation very strongly – and they did, but not enough – people would no longer be in Calais or Dunkirk" waiting for a chance to cross the Channel, he said.

"We are the victims of British politics. We must not get this mixed up," he said. He added: "We are neither [Britain’s] employees nor their auxiliaries."

The total of 1,185 migrants who crossed the Channel on Thursday smashed the previous daily high of 853 as smugglers exploited the cold but calm weather. Hundreds more are expected early this week due to calmer seas.

Britain has described the figures as "unacceptable." On Friday, three people who tried to cross in a canoe were reported missing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *