France warns UK not to use Channel tragedy for ‘political purposes’

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Emmanuel Macron has warned Boris Johnson not to use the deaths of dozens of people in the Channel boat tragedy “for political purposes”, the Élysée said.

In a conversation with the prime minister on Wednesday night, the French president stressed “the shared responsibility” of France and the UK, according to French reports. France’s government is holding an emergency meeting on Thursday morning to discuss next steps.

The British home secretary, Priti Patel, will speak to her French equivalent on Thursday morning about the next steps the two countries can take to halt the small boat crossings, a Home Office minister has confirmed.

The immigration minister, Kevin Foster, told BBC Breakfast it was “a dynamic situation”.

He added: “The French authorities are investigating and obviously we’re keen to let them get on with their work and we’ve obviously offered any support we can give.”

Macron’s comments came as British and French officials traded blame over the deaths of at least 27 people making the perilous Channel crossing in an inflatable boat.

Following a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee, Johnson said it was clear that French operations to stop the migrant boats leaving “haven’t been enough” despite £54m of UK support.

He said people traffickers were “literally getting away with murder” and that he hoped the French would now find a renewed offer of joint patrols by British and French authorities “acceptable”.

But on Thursday, the French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said Britain, Belgium and Germany needed to do more to help France tackle the migration issue and human trafficking.

Darmanin told the French radio station RTL people were “often attracted” by Britain’s labour market. “It’s an international problem … We tell our Belgian, German and British friends they should help us fight traffickers that work at an international level,” he said, adding: “There is bad immigration management (in Britain).”

Darmanin said since the start of the year, French police and rescuers had saved 7,800 people in French waters in the Channel. He also revealed a fifth suspect had been arrested in connection with the boat disaster. He said the suspect’s car was registered in Germany and that he had bought inflatable Zodiac boats in Germany.

Jean-Marc Puissesseau, the chairman of the ports of Calais and Boulogne, said he had expected the kind of tragedy seen on Wednesday “would happen one day”. He told BBC Breakfast he was “personally very, very, very sad” about the deaths. But, he added: “Between us I can tell you, we thought it would happen one day because these people are taking such an enormous risk to get to your country.

“When they leave their country it’s because they are suffering there and they have only one idea and wish – to get to your country. And they are ready to risk their lives, as they did yesterday.”

On Thursday morning, more people were brought ashore on the Kent coast after crossing the Channel. A group of people wearing lifejackets and wrapped in blankets were seen huddled onboard an RNLI lifeboat before disembarking in Dover, according to the PA Media news agency.

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