France urges Britain to do more on Channel migrant trafficking

Calais (France) (AFP) – France on Sunday urged Britain to help more with cracking down on people-smuggling gangs following a row between the two countries last week over an unprecedented boat accident in the Channel that cost 27 lives.


"We have to work with our British friends and tell them a few things," French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told reporters after a meeting of European ministers in charge of immigration in northern France.

"Firstly, help us fight people-smuggling better. We need intelligence. Responses to requests from the French police are not always given."

He also reiterated criticism of the "attractiveness of England" including its labour market "which means you can work without having an identity document".

The minister, who is considered a hardliner on immigration in France, also stressed that "there are no more legal routes to ask for asylum in England."

Ministers responsible for immigration from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands were invited to talks by France in the port of Calais on Sunday to discuss ways of preventing migrants crossing the Channel by boat.

Britain was not invited following a row between French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week, sparked by the unprecedented mass drowning on Wednesday in the busy shipping lane between the two countries.

The four countries represented in Calais issued a joint statement promising to "strengthen our operational cooperation" on tackling people-smugglers and "improving our joint cooperation with Great Britain".

New policy needed

Frontex, the European Union border agency, will deploy a plane to help fight migrant trafficking in the Channel from December 1, France also announced on Sunday.

The aircraft will fly "day and night" over the area from northern France to the Netherlands, Darmanin told reporters at the end of the meeting.

Johnson has proposed sending back all migrants and asylum seekers who land in England to France, a move which has been rejected by Paris.

Following Britain's departure from the European Union, it does not have a returns treaty with France or the wider EU.

German junior interior minister Stephan Mayer said at the end of the Calais meeting that it was "urgent" to agree a new policy to replace the so-called Dublin Regulation that sets the returns policy between EU states

"Great Britain has an important role to play. We need a post-Dublin deal between the European Union and Great Britain," he told reporters at a press conference.

The European Commission's vice president on Saturday bluntly told Britain it needed to sort out its own problems after its decision to leave the EU following a 2016 referendum.

"I recall well the main slogan of the referendum campaign is 'we take back control'," Margaritis Schinas told reporters during a trip to Greece.

"Since the UK took back control it's up to them now to find the necessary measures to operationalise the control they took back."