By Avellon Williams
PARIS, FRANCE – France has warned the United Kingdom that they are responsible for solving the crisis of thousands of migrants seeking entry to England from France through small boats by making it harder for people to find illegal work and by providing a “pathway to legal immigration”.
French PM Jean Castex sent a letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday night containing the proposals after 27 migrants drowned while on a small boat in the Channel.
“A large part of the solution lies not in France but the UK,” Castex wrote. In fact, the only way to prevent migrants from settling in the UK is to implement a more effective policy of returning them home.
“Only you can weaken criminal people-smuggling networks by opening paths to legal immigration to those who have legitimate reasons for going to your country. Only you can ensure that your labour market is sufficiently regulated to discourage those who try to work illegally.”
Despite months of tension across the Channel over migration, Castex’s letter contained a constructive message and described “the potential for a new framework for cooperation between the EU and UK”.
“Strengthening migration co-operation between the EU and UK” “could include a mechanism of virtuous transfers between the UK and EU”, he said.
With their relations already soured by disputes over trade, fishing and the status of Northern Ireland following Brexit, France, and the UK have been arguing about who is to blame for the accident and the increasing number of people, many from the Middle East and Afghanistan, trying to reach England by small boats.
As of November 25, at least 26,611 people have crossed in small boats to the UK illegally this year, which is more than three times as many as in the entire year 2020.
Following stepped-up security and reduced traffic flows, clandestine migrants are less likely to conceal themselves in trucks or under trains since the method has become the main means of entering the UK.
French President Emmanuel Macron was enraged at the way Boris Johnson sent him a letter last week proposing solutions and then made its contents public before he read it. Macron’s decision to ask his subordinate, the French prime minister, to answer will be seen as a calculated snub.
Johnston pointed the finger at the French for the danger of crossing the English Channel, calling for British and French patrol boats to be stationed in each other’s waters. Additionally, he called for all migrants reaching the English coast to be returned to France.
The French government has rejected these ideas and suggested the UK send protection officers to France who can examine the asylum requests of those attempting to reach Britain and so deter them from crossing the channel.
UK officials have said they oppose examining asylum claims on French territory, arguing that such a center would only encourage potential refugees to travel to France, possibly by routes like Mediterranean crossings that are almost as dangerous as Channel crossings.
A senior French official said on Thursday: “The overwhelming majority of these migrants want to go to the UK, and if we don’t deal with the legal migration, asylum, and family reunion issues, the issue will not be resolved.”