France’s Macron tells Britain to ‘take it’ seriously with the Channel’s migrant crisis

  • Britain wants joint patrols, calls on France to take migrants back
  • Macron says Johnson’s letter is not serious
  • Britain, France, trade debt for 27 migrants’ deaths at sea

PARIS, 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 previously canceled an invitation to British Home Secretary Priti Patel to attend a meeting on the issue in Calais, stressing how straining its relations with Britain have become, with post-Brexit trade rules and fishing rights at stake. 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.

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Macron responded to a letter from British Prime Minister Boris 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, who has previously said that France was to blame, insisted in the letter that they agreed on joint patrols on the country’s coasts and consent to take back the migrants who come to Britain. Read more

Furious at the letter, and not least at the fact 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.

Johnson’s spokesman said he was publishing the letter to inform the public about what the government was doing and that he did not regret it, but hoped France would reconsider the invitation to the negotiations.

“This is an issue that we take extremely seriously,” Johnson’s spokesman said of the migrant crisis.

The growing saliva between Britain and France follows 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 shipping routes. Read more

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 government spokesman Gabriel Attal, adding that Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin “told her counterpart that she was no longer welcome.”

‘Get serious’

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

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

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.

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.

Before Wednesday’s disaster, 14 people had drowned this year in an attempt to reach Britain, a French official said. In 2020, seven people died and two disappeared, while four died in 2019.

Rights groups say that while it is important to fight human traffickers, France and Britain’s migration policy is also to blame for the deaths, pointing to the lack of legal migration routes and increased safety at the Eurotunnel submarine rail link, which has pushed migrants to try dangerous sea crossings.

“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 it every day,” said Marwa Mezdour, who coordinates a migrant association in Calais, at a vigil where people lit candles in tribute to those who died as they tried to cross to Britain.

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Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten, Sudip Kar-Gupta, Richard Lough, Ingrid Melander, Ardee Napolitano; Editing Philippa Fletcher

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