Emmanuel Macron today insisted France is ‘totally mobilised’ to stop migrants crossing the Channel and warned Boris Johnson not to ‘exploit’ the latest devastating tragedy – as allies swiped at the UK’s ‘minimal’ contribution.
The French president rejected criticism that patrols are too lax, saying the authorities were on watch ‘day and night’ – as he demanded stronger international cooperation to help tackle the deadly trafficking issue.
A migrant boat capsized in the Channel yesterday and the French regional maritime authority said 27 people had died in what is the worst incident of its kind since the current migrant crisis began.
After warning Mr Johnson in a call last night not to use the situation for ‘political ends’, Mr Macron said Paris is going to request ‘extra help’ from the UK – arguing that migrants ‘don’t want to stay’ in France to claim asylum even though they are told they can.
French Minister for the Interior Gerald Darmanin warned ahead of talks with Home Secretary Priti Patel that smugglers were promising desperate asylum seekers an ‘El Dorado’ of jobs and benefits in the UK.
Ms Patel told MPs at lunchtime following her discussions with her counterpart that she had repeated an offer of sending UK police and Border Force staff to France to conduct joint patrols to prevent the crossings.
She said she had offered to help ‘put more officers on the ground and do absolutely whatever is necessary to secure the area so that vulnerable people do not risk their lives by getting into unseaworthy boats’.
Ms Patel said the small boat journeys across the Channel are ‘lethally dangerous’ and while ‘what happened yesterday was a dreadful shock, it was not a surprise’.
Warning that there is no ‘quick fix’ to the situation, the Home Secretary said the UK is already ‘undertaking a wide range of operational and diplomatic work’ to stop the crossings but she stressed ‘we cannot do it alone’.
French politicians have condemned Britain for failing to put in place formal routes for asylum, and for making it too easy to get work and housing on arrival. There were also claims that ‘mafia chiefs’ involved in people smuggling were living in ‘beautiful villas’ in London.
Speaking at a press conference in Zagreb, Mr Macron said: ‘We are going to ask for extra help from the British because all these men and these women don’t want to stay in France. We tell them they’re obviously able to do so, and there are centres in Calais and Dunkirk where they can go, but we’re going to reinforce in fact saving them at sea.
‘But basically… we’ve got to develop things in a far stronger way, we’ve got to reinforce co-operation – co-operation (with) Belgium, Holland, Germany, but also Britain and the (EU) Commission.
‘So that’s the decision that’s been made… a series of meetings will… take place with the Home Office minister in the next hours, in the next days.
‘We want to better integrate also the British to prevent these flows by dismantling the networks of… we’ve done so in the last few weeks.’
At a press conference in Zagreb today, Emmanuel Macron rejected criticism that patrols are too lax, saying the authorities were on watch ‘day and night’, as he demanded stronger international cooperation to help tackle the deadly trafficking issue.
French Police are pictured patrolling the beach of Wimereux near Calais as they searched for migrants today
Home Secretary Priti Patel has offered to help ‘put more officers on the ground and do absolutely whatever is necessary to secure the area so that vulnerable people do not risk their lives by getting into unseaworthy boats’
Mr Macron insisted that ‘France is a transit country’. ‘I will also say very clearly that our security forces are mobilised day and night,’ he added. ‘Our mobilisation is total as far as our coasts are concerned.’
The barbs came as immigration minister Kevin Foster made clear the UK is ready to top up the £54million funding already pledged to support France in managing its border.
In a round of interviews, Mr Foster repeated that personnel and helicopters were also available to help tackle the burgeoning problems on the coast – although Mr Macron has so far blanked the idea of joint patrols on French soil.
The backlash at France on the Conservative benches shows no sign of abating, with MP Jonathan Gullis telling the the Commons: ‘Mr Macron and the French Government have to stop talking the talk, and they have to start delivering on the ground to make sure that no more lives are lost.’
Mr Gullis added his constituents in Stoke-on-Trent North are ‘getting very angry when they see French police standing and watching small boats begin that perilous journey, and knowing that Frontex, whilst they’re tracking boats, are not being deployed within the Channel to turn these boats around, whilst the French continue to demand more UK taxpayer money and are refusing the assistance of our UK Border Force expertise’.
More people making the perilous journey across the Channel have been brought ashore in the UK following the deadliest day of the current migrant crisis.
A group wearing life jackets and wrapped in blankets were seen huddled together on board an RNLI lifeboat before disembarking in Dover this morning, just a day after a dinghy capsized off the coast of Calais, causing the loss of dozens of lives.
Mr Darmanin told French radio network RTL that the smugglers are ‘criminals, people who exploit the misery of others, of women and children – there were pregnant women, children who died yesterday on that boat… and for a few thousand euros they promise them ‘El Dorado in England’.
‘Sadly, this has been repeated every day for the last 20 years,’ he said.
Mr Darmanin has also called for ‘more police officers, more cameras, more resources in general’ to be devoted to the issue.
He pointed to ‘sometimes lively discussions’ with Ms Patel about the UK’s support to France, which ‘remain minimal compared to the resources that we put in place’.
Signalling that more help is on the table, Mr Foster said: ‘The first thing, is working with France. We have offered resources, we are happy to support their operations on the beach. We have already agreed £54million, we’re happy to look at doing more.
‘We’re also prepared to offer resources beyond (that) – like yesterday, we deployed a helicopter at their request to help with the search and rescue operation, so we’re not just offering cash. It is in no-one’s interest for this to continue.’
Recent tombs of migrants who died in their attempt to cross the English Channel are pictured in the Nord Cemetery of Calais
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, by the RNLI, following a small boat incident in the Channel after 27 people died yesterday
Ahead of talks with Priti Patel, Minister for the Interior Gerald Darmanin called for closer cooperation as he warned that smugglers were promising desperate asylum seekers an ‘Ed Dorado’ of jobs and benefits in the UK
Mr Foster added: ‘We’re prepared to offer support on the ground, we’re prepared to offer resources, we’re prepared to offer, literally, people to go there and assist the French authorities.’
The chairman of the ports of Calais and Boulogne, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, told BBC Breakfast the ‘enormous problem’ of illegal migration via the Channel could only be solved by the UK working together with European authorities.
‘It’s an enormous problem. It is 20 years that we have migrants coming to Calais with only one wish – get to your country,’ he said.
‘And it’s really time that Europe and the UK together, we try together to solve the problem.’
The MP for Calais has said calls for increased patrols on the beaches of France is a ‘crazy solution’ to the migrant crisis.
Pierre-Henri Dumont told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think it’s time for both our governments to stop blaming each other and to try and talk to each other and find real solutions, not a crazy solution such as having more and more people patrolling, sending the British army to the French shore.
‘That is not acceptable and will not change anything.’
Asked what should be done, he said migrants should be allowed to apply for asylum while outside the UK but that it should be ‘harder’ to find employment or housing when they arrive.
The MP added: ‘What I can assure you is having more money or more police officers patrolling the French shore will not change anything because we have 200-300km of shore to monitor 24/7.
‘It only takes five to 10 minutes for smugglers to take a boat and put in the sea for the migrants, when the migrants are in the UK it’s too late, they will find a way to cross.’
Another French politician said heads of human trafficking networks who live comfortable lives in the UK must be arrested.
Franck Dhersin, the vice president of transport for the northern Hauts-de-France region, told French TV station BFMTV: ‘In France what do we do? We arrest the smugglers…
‘To fight them, there’s only one way – we need to stop the organisations, you need to arrest the mafia chiefs.
‘And the mafia chiefs live in London… They live in London peacefully, in beautiful villas, they earn hundreds of millions of euros every year, and they reinvest that money in the City.
‘And so it’s very easy for the tax authorities to find them’.
Mr Johnson spoke to Mr Macron last night in the wake of the tragedy, with French officials saying pregnant women and children were among the dead.
Downing Street said the two men had agreed to ‘keep all options on the table’ in their efforts to break up the human trafficking gangs responsible for putting desperate people at risk in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.
Mr Johnson said there had been ‘difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that the situation deserves’.
And in a terse readout of the talks, the Elysee Palace said Macron told Johnson that France and the UK have a ‘shared responsibility’ and added he ‘expected the British to cooperate fully and refrain from exploiting a dramatic situation for political ends’.
A joint search and rescue operation by the French and British authorities that was launched after a fishing boat spotted people in the sea off France was finally called off late on Wednesday.
The dead were said to include five women and a girl, while two survivors were picked up and were being treated in a French hospital. One of the dead women was later reported to have been pregnant.
Mr Darmanin said the boat which sank had been very flimsy, likening it to ‘a pool you blow up in your garden’.
He was unable to state the nationalities of the victims, but said the two survivors were Somali and Iraqi and had been treated for severe hypothermia.
The French authorities have arrested five suspected people traffickers in connection with the incident, while the regional prosecutor has opened an investigation into aggravated manslaughter.
Following a meeting of the Cobra emergencies committee, Mr Johnson said it is clear that French operations to stop the migrant boats leaving ‘haven’t been enough’ despite £54 million of UK support, adding that the people traffickers are ‘literally getting away with murder’.
Mr Johnson said the Government will seek to ‘accelerate’ measures in the Nationality and Borders Bill to enable the authorities to ‘distinguish between people who come here legally and people who come here illegally’.
However, Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart said it is the British who are to blame and called on Mr Johnson to ‘face up to his responsibilities’.
‘The British Government is to blame. I believe that Boris Johnson has, for the past year and a half, cynically chosen to blame France,’ she said, according to French media reports.
27 people drowned just off Calais yesterday afternoon, sparking a war of words between Britain and France
Boris Johnson (left) has told Emmanuel Macron (right today in Zagreb) that British boots are needed on the ground in France to stop evil slave gangs ‘getting away with murder’ after at least 27 migrants drowned in the deadliest-ever Channel crossing