France Defends Efforts to Stem Illegal Migrant Influx as UK Officials Split Over ‘Push Back’ Tactics


by Svetlana Ekimenko

Earlier reports stated that the British government was urging France to adopt harsher measures against migrants, as the UK witnessed a spike in the number of migrants undertaking the often perilous journey across the English Channel.

Amid accusations of not doing enough to prevent migrants from arriving in the UK across the English Channel, France has defended its efforts to stem the flow of crossings, reports The Times.

The French interior ministry said that between January and July, authorities had stopped five times as many crossings as in the same period last year, with the total for last month being ten times that recorded in July 2019.

Official figures cited by AFP also show that since 1 January, French authorities have intercepted at least 810 migrants trying to cross the Channel.

Downing Street has been urging France to resort to harsher measures against migrants attempting to cross the English Channel, with Minister for Immigration Compliance Chris Philp suggesting that officials do more to try and stop migrants leaving French waters.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, was quoted by Sky News on Saturday as underscoring government plans to render the often perilous route across the busy shipping lane “unviable”.

Talks to hammer out a viable deal to address cross-Channel trafficking are set to continue Monday, with immigration minister Chris Philp to lead the UK negotiating side in Paris.

Earlier, it was reported by the Sunday Telegraph that French interior minister Gerald Darmanin had informed UK Home Secretary Priti Patel in July that France would need additional finances from the British authorities to guard the English Channel against the influx of migrants illegally coming to Britain with the help of smugglers, reported on Saturday.

The reported sum of £30 million ($39.12 million) was mentioned, with French government officials confirming to AFP that a deal with the UK was close.

The figure of £30 million was confirmed by British sources.

Negotiations on the issue come as there will be a need for the UK to replace the EU Dublin Convention with new agreements once it has reached the end of the Brexit transition in December.

International law stipulates that people have the right to seek asylum in whichever country they arrive. However, the European Union law has a provision allowing asylum applications to be transferred to another member state.

In line with the Dublin Regulation, a person’s asylum claim may be transferred to the first member state they enter.

‘Channel Threat’ Issue

As the UK struggles to contain the soaring numbers of illegal crossings, a formal request for military assistance in dealing with the migrant problem was made on 7 August by Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Dan O’Mahoney, a former Royal Marine, was also appointed as “clandestine Channel threat commander”.
The UK Ministry of Defence is said to be considering the extend to which it can offer assistance, as Patel emphasised that she seeks to use “interception” as part of efforts to turn the Channel into an “unviable” route for people-traffickers.

The former education secretary, Baroness Morgan of Cotes, was quoted by the outlet as underscoring the importance of reassuring people that the government was acting to stop the crossings, which have set records.

Meanwhile, as some officials reportedly mull an approach modelled on the Australian one, where migrants are “pushed back” from territorial waters, the plan of resorting to using the Royal Navy to deal with the matter has been strongly opposed by former foreign secretary David Miliband, currently chief executive of the International Rescue Committee.

Miliband emphasised that people risking their lives to undertake the crossing were being “dehumanised”.
According to him, statistics were used “to make it seem like there is a quote unquote invasion”.

“The bigger the wall, the more desperate the measures to get around them… And remember the distance from Australia to Indonesia is many times that of the distance from Dover to Calais,” said Miliband, calling on “cooler heads to prevail if the UK is to sustain an effective response, as well as a humane response”.

Labour peer Lord Dubs also dismissed suggestions that the Navy could be instrumental in stemming the flow of migrants.

“What’s the Navy going to do? It can’t force people to go back to France. All it can do is pick people up and help the Border Force so I’m not sure that’s the right way forward. My take is we’ve got to have better co-operation with the French authorities. We’ve got to find legal paths to safety for those who are able to come here, like children,” he said.

Seismic Increase in Numbers

The developments come as the UK has been struggling with a “seismic” increase in the number of migrants crossing across the English Channel.

On 6 August, according to the Home Office, a total of 235 migrants were intercepted attempting to reach UK borders across the Channel. The figures set a record for the number of migrant crossings registered in a single day.

Analysis by PA Media suggests 4,100 people have already reached England in 2020, with 151 arriving on Saturday, 8 August, taking this month’s total to over 650.



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