London and Paris argue about the future course

On Wednesday, a boat capsized in the English Channel off the French city of Calais. At least 27 people died, including women and children. The French authorities arrested five suspected people smugglers. France has now invited the ministers responsible for migration from several European countries to a meeting in Calais in northern France. Representatives of Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain and the European Union will come together on Sunday, according to the French Interior Ministry.

According to the information, Paris wants to “define ways and means to strengthen police, judicial and humanitarian cooperation” with the other countries in order to “take better action against the smuggling networks”. An “answer at European level” is necessary in order to find lasting solutions.

APA / AFP / Ben Stansall

Refugees are looked after by emergency services on Dungeness Beach in England

Johnson sees France to blame

The conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, reiterated the accusation that France is doing too little to prevent the crossings. His spokesman pointed to the equivalent of 62 million euros with which Great Britain supports the French controls on the English Channel. The money is intended to stop migrants, he said. This year around 26,000 refugees have already arrived on the English coast – three times as many as in the entire previous year.

Graphic of the boat accident in the English Channel

Graphics: APA / ORF.at; Source: IOM

“We are ready to provide on-the-spot support,” UK Interior Secretary Kevin Foster told the BBC. “We are ready to offer resources. We are ready to send staff and help the French authorities. ”The business model of people smugglers must be destroyed.

France sees the UK as guilty

French politicians rejected the British request to send their own officials to France. The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, blamed Johnson’s tough migration policy for the crisis. The vice-president of the Hauts-de-France region, in which Calais is located, Franck Dhersin, called on the British authorities to crack down on the people behind the smugglers. They lived in London and earned hundreds of millions of euros, he said.

Drowned Refugees: Mutual Allegations

After the deaths of at least 27 refugees in the English Channel, France and Great Britain are mutually blamed.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Johnson discussed steps to prevent further such dramas on Wednesday evening. According to the Elysee Palace, Macron expects the British to be willing to cooperate and not instrumentalize the refugee drama for political purposes. “France will not allow the English Channel to become a cemetery,” Macron said.

Johnson eventually suggested five measures to Macron. Joint patrols were supposed to prevent more refugee boats from leaving the French coast for Great Britain. Radar and sensors should also be used for monitoring. In addition, there must be a return agreement between his country and France and one with the European Union.

British Home Secretary promised the end of the crossings

In the UK, human rights activists and the opposition criticized the government’s immigration policy. Instead of strict asylum laws, humane and safe routes to Great Britain are needed. Interior Minister Priti Patel in particular is under pressure. The conservative hardliner had promised to end the crossings. After Brexit, the government introduced strict immigration rules.

Most recently, Patel announced another tightening. People who enter the country illegally should no longer be allowed to apply for asylum. Patel also called for tougher crackdown on people smugglers. “There is no quick fix,” said Patel on Thursday in the UK Parliament. It’s about breaking criminal gangs.

The number of asylum applications in the UK is currently higher than it has been in almost 17 years. 37,562 people had requested asylum in the twelve months to September, said the Home Office in London. That is almost a fifth more than in the same period of the previous year and also slightly more than at the height of the refugee movement in 2015/16. As of the end of September 2021, 67,547 people were waiting for a decision on their asylum applications, more than ever since the evaluation began.

Labor sees “wake up call”

In France, there are still a lot of people waiting for a crossing. British media quoted several refugees who want to stick to their plans despite the boat accident with numerous dead. The strait between Calais and the English port city of Dover is one of the busiest sea routes in the world.

Graves of people who died in the English Channel in Calais

AP/Rafael Yaghobzadeh

Graves of people who died in the English Channel in Calais

The British Refugee Council, like the opposition Labor Party, spoke of a “wake-up call” that the government must rethink its course. The head of the Anglican Church, Justin Welby, called for a better immigration system of “compassion, justice and cooperation across borders”.

Sassoli calls for decisive action

EU Parliament President David Sassoli expressed his dismay on Thursday about the shipwreck on Wednesday. He called for decisive action so that tragedies of this kind do not happen again. “Yesterday at least 27 people died in the English Channel. This is the latest in a long series of tragedies in the seas around Europe. Today we mourn the victims, but we also have to act to ensure that this does not happen again, ”said Sassoli.

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