Migrant crisis: France rejects calls for British border patrols amid growing tensions

2 December 2021, 22:30

The French Prime Minister has turned down British patrols for Calais beaches.
The French Prime Minister has turned down British patrols for Calais beaches. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

France has formally rejected the idea of British border patrols along Calais beaches to help deal with the migrant crisis.

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In a letter to Boris Johnson, French Prime Minister Jean Castex turned down the proposals, saying the country "cannot accept" such a move as it would compromise the nation's sovereignty.

He instead argued that the UK should carry out reforms of its systems to offer "legal immigration paths" for people to avoid risking the perilous crossing.

It comes after French president Emmanuel Macron reportedly called Mr Johnson "a clown" as tensions continue to rise over the issue.

The death of 27 migrants attempting to cross the Channel last week reignited the war of words between both countries, with each side calling for the other to do more in the wake of the tragedy.

In a letter to the president, Mr Johnson said introducing patrols would help prevent losing more lives, saying "we must go further and faster, together".

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According to Le Monde, Mr Castex's letter read: "We have always accepted to examine and discuss in good faith British proposals of reinforcement and cooperation.

"We have accepted some, we have declined others."

He added: "We cannot accept, for example, that British police officers or soldiers patrol our coasts.

"It comes from our sovereignty."

It is not the first time France has refused support from the UK, with the country repeatedly turned down British requests for joint land and maritime operations in its territory.

The French Prime Minister argued that more than 700 police officers and gendarmes were already covering the area around Dunkirk and Calais to prevent small boats carrying migrants taking to the water.

However, these efforts "only permit us to contain the phenomenon, not to bring a lasting response".

To do that, he suggested the UK open legal immigration paths for those who have legitimate reasons to enter the country, and pursue a "more efficient" returns policy for those who do not.

A UK Government spokesman said: "Last week's devastating events were a tragic reminder of the dangers of these crossings and like our French neighbours the UK Government is determined to prevent further loss of life in the Channel.

"We stand ready to discuss all options in the spirit of our close cooperation and partnership, and as a shared, global challenge it is vital we address illegal migration collectively and urgently."