France’s Macron tells Britain to “take it seriously” about the migrant crisis in the Channel

  • Britain wants joint patrols, calls on France to take migrants back
  • Macron says Johnson’s letter is not serious
  • Johnson takes the matter very seriously, the spokesman said
  • 27 migrants drowned in an attempt to reach Britain on Wednesday

PARIS / LONDON, November 26 (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron told Britain on Friday that it was necessary to “take it seriously” or remain locked out of discussions on how to slow down the flow of migrants , escaping war and poverty across the Channel.

France canceled an invitation to British Home Secretary Priti Patel to attend a meeting on the subject in Calais, stressing how full its ties with Britain have become, with post-Brexit trade rules and fishing rights at stake.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the British Prime Minister took the issue “extremely seriously” and said he hoped France would reconsider its decision to cancel Patel’s invitation.

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The dispute erupted after the deaths of 27 migrants trying to cross the narrow sea route between the two countries, the worst tragedy ever in one of the world’s busiest sailing routes. Read more

“I’m surprised when things are not being taken seriously. We are not communicating between leaders via tweets or published letters, we are not whistleblowers. Come on. Come on,” Macron told a news conference in Rome.

Macron responded to a letter from Johnson in which the British leader told “Dear Emmanuel” what he thought should be done to prevent migrants from embarking on the perilous journey.

Johnson, in his letter, called on France to agree on joint patrols on the country’s coasts and consent to take back the migrants arriving in Britain. Read more

Furious over the letter, and not least over that Johnson posted it on Twitter, the French government canceled an invitation to Patel to attend a meeting on Sunday to discuss with EU ministers how to tackle immigration.

‘SPIRIT OF PARTNERSHIP’

Johnson does not regret his letter to Macron or the publication of it on Twitter, his spokesman said, adding that he wrote it “in the spirit of partnership and cooperation” and posted it online to inform the public about what the government was doing.

Relations between the traditional allies are already strained, including by a recent submarine agreement with Australia, which replaced one it had with France, and they already accused each other of not managing immigration properly.

“We are tired of (London’s) double-talk,” said French government spokesman Gabriel Attal, adding that Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin “told her counterpart that she was no longer welcome.”

Sunday’s migration meeting continues without Patel, but with ministers from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and EU Commission officials.

“(EU) ministers will work seriously to address serious issues with serious people,” Macron said. “We will then see how we move forward effectively with the British if they decide to take it seriously.”

When Britain left the EU, it was no longer able to use the bloc’s system to return migrants to the first Member State they entered.

UNHCR spokesman William Saltmarsh called on France and Britain to work together.

“Cooperation between the two countries, but also between Britain and Europe, is extremely important,” he said. “It is important that there is a joint effort to try to break the smuggling rings, the smugglers have been very adaptable in recent months.”

The number of migrants crossing the canal has risen to 25,776 so far in 2021, up from 8,461 in 2020 and 1,835 in 2019, according to the BBC, citing government data.

Rights groups say that while combating human trafficking is crucial, France and Britain’s migration policy is also to blame for the deaths, pointing to a lack of legal migration routes.

“The result of what happened yesterday, we can say that it was because of smugglers, but it is primarily the responsibility for these deadly migration policies, we see this every day,” said Marwa Mezdour, who coordinates a migrant association in Calais, by a guard in tribute to those who drowned.

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Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten, Sudip Kar-Gupta, Richard Lough, Ingrid Melander in Paris, Kylie MacLellan in London, Ardee Napolitano in Calais, Stephanie Nebehhay in Geneva; Author Ingrid Melander; Edited by Philippa Fletcher and Gareth Jones

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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