The UK wanted to push migrants back, compelling France to cooperate

People thought to be migrants disembark from a British Border Force patrol boat after being picked up from a dingy in the English Channel in Dover harbour , England, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
By Karolina Klaskova
4 Min Read

In recent weeks, the number of people trying to get on boats from France to the United Kingdom has reached record levels. However, according to ITV station, the British Coast Guard managed to reduce this number in the days following a diplomatic dispute between London and Paris.

According to the Daily Mail, France’s willingness to work together with the UK to stop migrants is behind the improvement. It allegedly increased after British Home Secretary Priti Patel wanted to stop contributions to the anti-smuggling program. Before that, she threatened Paris that the British Coast Guard would detain boats with migrants and turn them back to the French shores.

In the last ten days, a total of 2,292 people have tried to cross the English Channel by boat. The French detained more than half of them. In the previous period, only about one-third of people illegally crossing the sea border succeeded.

Nevertheless, migrants continue to arrive in Britain in record numbers. For example, on Friday, the British detained 174 people in six boats. Their total number for this year thus exceeded 15,000 and has climbed to almost double the amount from last year.

The French began to cooperate

The British Home Office has asked France to try to stop three-quarters of migrants on their sea routes to Britain by the end of this month. Under these conditions, Britain remains willing to contribute to the anti-smuggling fund. British officials now see improving cooperation with the French as a result of London’s financial pressure on Paris.

“When money is on the line, the French always pay attention,“ The Times quoted a British official as saying.

France, which placed only minimal obstacles to migration to Britain, may also be looking ahead to the presidential election which takes place in six months. President Emmanuel Macron does not want to seem weak on this issue, as immigration is expected to be one of the main electoral issues.

Adaptation to changing tactics of human smugglers

In negotiations with the British, the French point out that they must constantly adapt to the changing tactics of human smugglers and have had to use several means and procedures. For example, Calais MP Pierre-Henri Dumon told the BBC that such a large number of migrants has left his country because it was impossible to monitor 300 to 400 kilometers of coastline and set up a police patrol every 100 meters.

“We are doing what we can. We stop hundreds of people every night before they set off,” said the deputy.

At the beginning of the month, France defied the plan of the British Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel. According to her, the boats with migrants were to be repelled from the British shores by the Coast Guard and directed back to the French shores. European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said the British plan was dangerous and apparently against international law.

“We can’t let people die there. That means we should work together more. We are ready for it,” said Beaune. “Let’s move forward and look for a solution. Exaggerated reactions and controversies are growing among us because we are not acting together,” he added.

Title image: People thought to be migrants disembark from a British Border Force patrol boat after being picked up from a dingy in the English Channel in the Port of Dover, England, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

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