Tragedy in the English Channel Johnson puts pressure on Paris – calls for the withdrawal of migrants.
The shock over the catastrophe in the English Channel with dozens of deaths is great. The day after the disaster, the blame continues between Britain and France. And: One trace leads to Germany.
Despite the tragedy in the English Channel with at least 27 deaths, many people have once again made the dangerous journey to Great Britain illegally. Dozens of migrants again arrived on the English coast on Thursday, according to British media.
The British government increased pressure on France to prevent the crossings. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called, among other things, for an agreement with Paris on the repatriation of migrants. That could be the “biggest single step” to destroy the business model of criminal smugglers, wrote the conservative politician on Thursday evening on Twitter. Since the implementation of Brexit, Great Britain can no longer make use of a corresponding EU regulation on the return of asylum seekers. Johnson also published a three-page letter to Macron that evening with further suggestions, including calling for joint patrols on French beaches.
On Wednesday, a boat capsized in the English Channel off the French city of Calais. At least 27 people died. As the BBC reported, citing French investigators, the victims are 17 men, seven women and three children. French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said two people survived. They came from Somalia and Iraq. The French authorities arrested five suspected people smugglers. At least one suspect came from Germany, Darmanin said. “The smuggler we arrested last night had German license plates. He bought these rubber boats in Germany.”
Johnson accused France of a lack of commitment. His spokesman pointed to the 62 million euros with which Great Britain supports the controls on the English Channel. The money was intended to stop migrants, the spokesman said. Former cabinet member Robert Jenrick said it was in the power of French President Emmanuel Macron to end the problem.
According to Johnson, a meeting between the interior ministers of Great Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium is planned for Sunday to discuss the situation on the English Channel.
This year around 26,000 people have already arrived on the English coast – three times as many as in the entire previous year. “We are ready to provide on-site support,” UK Interior Secretary Kevin Foster told the BBC. “We are ready to provide resources. We are ready to send staff and help the French authorities.” The business model of people smugglers must be destroyed.
French politicians rejected the British request to send their own officials to France. The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, blamed Johnson’s tough migration policy for the crisis. Franck Dhersin, Vice-President of the Hauts-de-France region, in which Calais is located, called on the British authorities to crack down on those behind the smugglers. They lived in London and earned hundreds of millions of euros.
According to the Elysée Palace in Paris, President Macron expects the British to be willing to cooperate and not instrumentalise the refugee drama for political purposes. “France will not allow the English Channel to become a cemetery,” Macron said.
In the UK, human rights activists and the opposition criticized the government’s immigration policy. Instead of strict asylum laws, humane and safe routes to Great Britain are needed. Interior Minister Patel in particular is under pressure. The conservative hardliner had promised to end the crossings. After Brexit, the government introduced tough immigration rules, which Patel now wants to tighten again. People who come illegally into the country should no longer be allowed to apply for asylum.
In parliament, Patel defended the idea of pushing boats with migrants off the open sea – so-called pushbacks. At the same time, she claimed: “The UK has a straightforward and generous approach to asylum seekers and refugees.”
The number of asylum applications in the UK is currently higher than it has been in almost 17 years. The Interior Ministry announced that 37,562 people had requested asylum in the twelve months to September. That is almost a fifth more than in the same period of the previous year and a little more than at the height of the refugee movement in 2015/16. As of the end of September 2021, 67,547 people were waiting for a decision on their asylum applications, more than ever since the evaluation began.
Large numbers of migrants are still waiting in France. British media quoted several refugees who want to stick to their plans despite the previous day’s tragedy. The strait between Calais and the English port city of Dover is one of the world’s busiest roads.
The British Refugee Council spoke of a “wake-up call” for the government. The head of the Anglican Church, Justin Welby, called for a better immigration system of “compassion, justice and cooperation across borders”.