EU ministers call for deal with UK to tackle migrant crisis

European ministers meeting in Calais on Sunday called for a new agreement with the United Kingdom to combat the influx of migrants trying to cross the Channel to England from France in small boats.

Four days after the death of 27 people in the capsizing of a boat, Gérald Darmanin, French Minister of the Interior, said European authorities would work on an “even more intense” battle against smugglers who organize boat crossings for migrants across the Channel. He added that the main driver of displaced people was the attractiveness of life in the UK.

Ministers responsible for immigration from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany met on Sunday afternoon to discuss ways to end small boat crossings.

Speaking afterwards, Darmanin said: “If migrants come here to Calais. . . and risk their lives to cross the Channel, it is because they are attracted by England, in particular by the job market.

He said concrete decisions had been taken to improve monitoring of how smugglers buy and transport boats, and ministers agreed that a new UK-EU migration policy framework was needed in the weeks to come. to come.

Darmanin announced that from Wednesday the EU will deploy a plane to monitor and control migration traffic in the Channel. This plane “will fly day and night” over the area, from France to the Netherlands, he said.

Since Wednesday’s sinking, which rocked politicians across Europe, London and Paris have been arguing over a workable response.

The intransigence of the 25-year-old crisis was underscored on Friday when France angrily withdrew its invitation to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel after Boris Johnson wrote a letter to President Emmanuel Macron and gave it to him. made public on Twitter. The British Prime Minister has called for French and British maritime patrols to operate in each other’s territorial waters and for the thousands of migrants who reach English coasts to be returned to France.

Macron and his ministers objected both to the content of the letter, which blamed France for the crisis while relaunching proposals already rejected by Paris, and how it was immediately made accessible to British media.

European ministers in charge of migration meet in Calais on Sunday © Francois Lo Presti / AP

“This meeting was not anti-British. It was pro-European, ”said Darmanin on Sunday evening. “We have to work with our British friends.”

“Britain has left political Europe, but it has not left the world,” he said, adding that the UK must also create avenues for displaced people to seek asylum . France has suggested the UK send protection officers to France to process asylum claims in advance so migrants don’t risk their lives trying to reach England.

Stephan Mayer, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Home Office, said an “agreement between the EU and Britain” was urgently needed.

Ylva Johansson, EU Home Affairs Commissioner, along with leaders of Europol and Frontex, EU police and border agencies, attended the meeting on Sunday.

Michel Duclos, principal researcher at the Institut Montaigne in Paris and adviser to interior ministers under former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said he believed that the police were not enough: “You have to think in terms of offers a legal route to Afghans, Iranians, Syrians and. . . the Ethiopians.

“France and the EU should contribute, but it is clear that the UK should be open to asylum seekers, coming from France, like any other civilized country,” he added.

A source from Whitehall said: “We will have more discussions with our counterparts this week on how we can work together to resolve this crisis on a European scale. Priti’s Nationality and Borders Bill is the first step in addressing the failing asylum system and the pull factors it creates.

Patel warned over the weekend that the lack of cooperation would lead to “even worse scenes” in the Channel over the next few months.

In a statement, she pledged to “continue to push” for action in “urgent talks with my European counterparts” this week “to avoid further tragedies in the Channel”.

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