At the end of a crisis meeting, the Conservative Prime Minister said to himself “shocked, revolted and deeply saddened“by the death of 27 migrants in the Channel, claiming to want”Do more“with France to discourage illegal crossings.
The south coast of England has been facing record arrivals of migrants crossing the Channel for several months, often through smugglers. Since the start of the year, there have been more than 25,700, according to the Press Association agency, three times more than for the whole of 2020.
This is too much for the head of government, who has promised to tighten the screw on immigration and thus achieve one of the great promises of Brexit, of which he is a staunch defender.
These crossings regularly fuel tensions between Paris and London, the British authorities considering insufficient the efforts undertaken on the French side to prevent the candidates for exile from boarding despite the payment of financial aid.
The French, who refute these accusations, retort that London is reluctant to actually untie the purse strings.
In a telephone interview, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron “agreed on the urgent need to step up their joint efforts to prevent these deadly crossings and do everything possible against life-threatening gangs“, said a spokesperson for Downing Street.
They also stressed the importance of working closely with neighboring countries like Belgium and the Netherlands as well as across the European continent to “tackle the problem effectively before (the migrants) reach the French coast“.
Boris Johnson had previously admitted on Sky News that the efforts had not been “enough“, saying to have”had difficulty persuading some of (his) partners, in particular the French, to act up to the situation“.
For Natalie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover, a city in the south-east of England facing the disembarkation of migrants, this tragedy shows that “saving lives at sea begins with stopping boats going into the water“.
– “Impracticable” –
The British government wants to make “impractical“these perilous crossings in one of the busiest sea lanes in the world.
He is preparing to considerably tighten the conditions for granting asylum in order to discourage smugglers. A controversial bill thus provides for heavier penalties, by raising to life imprisonment, against the current 14 years, the maximum penalty they incur.
“This disaster (…) shows how vital it is to step up our efforts to break the business model of the gangsters who send people to sea in this way.“, said Boris Johnson.
Presented by Interior Minister Priti Patel as “fair but firm“, denounced by associations for the defense of human rights, the reform also plans to treat asylum seekers differently depending on whether they have arrived in the country legally or illegally.
But under strong pressure, Priti Patel, in whom Boris Johnson renewed his confidence on Wednesday, also finds himself under fire from critics.
She is accused of not doing enough by members of her own conservative camp, or of having “lost control“by the Labor opposition.
Facing criticism, Boris Johnson recently asked a member of his government, Stephen Barclay, to study how authorities can more effectively prevent these crossings.
More radical options have also been considered, according to the press, but are proving difficult to apply.
Turn back the boats? It is against international law.
Send asylum seekers to a third country while their application is processed? Home Secretary Kevin Foster admitted on Wednesday that no country has so far shown an interest in hosting treatment centers on behalf of the British.
Pas-de-Calais MP Pierre-Henri Dumont (LR, right) said on Times Radio that it was necessary to work with London to make it easier for migrants to apply for asylum, which they cannot not to do “if they haven’t set foot in the UK“.
Horrified by the tragedy, many NGOs pleaded for a less harsh asylum policy and the establishment of roads “sure“.