London has decided to crack down on the migrant invasion: the UK is threatening to send migrant boats back to France. It has approved plans to reject boats with illegal immigrants on its shores, deepening the dispute with France over how to deal with the influx of illegal migrants trying to cross the English Channel in small boats.
Hundreds of small boats have attempted the journey from France to the UK this year on one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. The British Coast Guard is being trained to drive these boats out of British waters, but it will only use this new tactic if it is deemed safe, a British government official, who declined to be named, said on Thursday. Michael Ellis, the acting UK Attorney General, will create a legal basis for border guards to apply the new strategy, the official said.
Home Secretary Priti Patel told French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin that her “top priority” was to stop people coming from France in small boats.
Patel had already angered the French government earlier this week when it said Britain could withhold about £54 million ($75 million) in funds it had pledged to stem the flow of migrants. A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said the government was looking at a number of safe and legal ways to stop the boats. Immigration was a key issue in the 2016 referendum, which decided to leave the European Union.
Darmanin said Britain must comply with both the law of the sea and commitments made to France, which include financial payments to finance French border patrols at sea. France and Britain agreed in July to deploy more police officers and invest in detection technology to prevent crossing the English Channel. The French police have confiscated more boats, but according to their own statements, they cannot completely prevent the departure.
“France will not accept practices that violate the law of the sea, nor will it accept financial blackmail,” the French minister tweeted.
In a letter leaked to the British media, Darmanin also argued that it would be dangerous to force the boats to return to the French coast and that “the protection of human lives at sea takes precedence over considerations of nationality, status and migration policy”. Behind the fine humanitarian words is in fact the desire not to take back the illegal immigrants who reach the English coast from Calais. But the Macron government should rejoice: Aren’t these “Chances pour la France” (“Opportunities for France”, cf. www.breizh-info.com/2020/09/21/150808/limmigration-est-une-chance-pour-la-france-40-ans-deja/)?
The British Home Office was not deterred and replied to the annoying Darmanin:
“Normally, we do not comment on operational activities at sea.”