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Channel crossings are an English problem, says French minister | Immigration and asylum

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Senior French ministers accused the UK of managing a labor market bordering on slavery and called on London to open safe routes for migrants, as both governments continued to blame last week’s drownings in the Channel.

The criticism came hours after French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin held a crisis meeting with European ministers and border agencies to discuss the migrant emergency around Channel ports.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel was banned from the meeting after Boris Johnson annoyed President Emmanuel Macron by issuing a letter calling on France to accept the return of the people and calling on British troops or border police to patrol the French beaches.

Darmanin said cross-Channel migration was “first and foremost an English problem” and Britain must “accept its responsibilities”.

“Today, people who wish to seek asylum in England have no other means than to cross the Channel. This is because there is no legal way for immigrants to get to Britain and because you can work without ID in England and that creates demand, ”Darmanin told BFM TV .

He added that France accepts 150,000 asylum applications per year, compared to 30,000 in the United Kingdom.

The French Minister for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, also retaliated against the United Kingdom, accusing it of having “an economic model, sometimes almost modern, of slavery” which, according to him, encouraged desperate people to attempt perilous crossings of the English Channel.

“We are asking the British to change their [legal] framework, ”Beaune told France Inter. He said the exploitation of illegal workers was “more prevalent in the UK because there are fewer controls” and the UK needed “more humane” labor market regulation to discourage migrants .

Darmanin, who gave an interview to the Guardian after Sunday’s meeting, reiterated that France was not ready to be treated as the UK’s “vassal” and was fed up with the UK government’s double talk.

“I am very happy to discuss things … as long as we have a normal relationship and a spirit of equality,” he said on Monday.

France has convened the meeting of ministers responsible for immigration from Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as the European Commissioner for Home Affairs. Representatives of the EU law enforcement agency, Europol, and the EU’s border management agency, Frontex, were also invited to the hastily-hosted summit in Calais on Sunday.

Last Wednesday, 27 people died in the English Channel, a tragedy that sparked a blame game between London and Paris.

Patel was scheduled to attend the summit, but the invitation was canceled due to Johnson’s letter, posted on Twitter before being seen by Macron. Subsequently, Darmanin said France and its EU partners agreed to new measures to crack down on smugglers.

On Sunday, a French newspaper claimed that British police and intelligence services had stopped cooperating with their counterparts in investigations aimed at tracking down and arresting the smugglers.

Le Journal du Dimanche said it had read a Border Police (PAF) report stating: “We must point out that the British services are not sending us intelligence information that is neither useful nor usable … our requests do not receive no response… the information sent is not always taken into account ”.

He claimed that in June the British intelligence services had received the names of two smugglers who had organized a crossing of the Channel by a group of Sudanese in December 2020 and had just left France for the United Kingdom. British services have not acknowledged receipt of this information and have not responded, the report said.

French police say they have dismantled 20 smuggling networks organizing Channel crossings, almost all organized by Iraqi Kurds. They say a number of human trafficking ringleaders are based in the UK and Germany and recruit desperate people who are offered a free crossing in exchange for their work for the network.

“Boats that come from China and can carry up to 60 migrants are stored abroad (mainly in Germany) and then transported to the coastal area by carriers who rarely know the details of the organization (they help). Other accomplices are responsible for bringing the migrants to the water’s edge or delivering cans of gasoline and life jackets, ”the report reads.

Beaune also criticized Britain over the issue of Channel fishing licenses, saying “the British know the ball is in their court”. Talks are taking place this week between the UK and France, and Beaune warned: “If there is no massive gesture by December 10, we will stop the talks.

He added: “Unfortunately I think the Brexit failure is masked by a smokescreen making Europe a daily punching bag.”

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