The operation launched by the government of Boris Johnson to welcome Afghan refugees was baptized as ‘Warm welcome’ (in Spanish, warm welcome), a name that contrasts, however, with the one it intends to launch to return to France to immigrants arriving in small boats through the English Channel. The returns in hot (or rather, in cold, due to the low temperatures of the waters of the Strait), are part of a plan in which the Ministry of the Interior, with Priti Patel At the helm, he has been working for the last two years. In a statement echoed by the local press, the ministry revealed that border force agents are being trained in “change of course” tactics at sea, which have been developed together with experts on the ground and that they would oblige the boats to turn around, provided that it is considered that the boats conditions are safe, until reaching French waters again, where local forces would have to take them to the coast.
The reply from Paris was swift. Patel’s French counterpart, Gérald Darmanin, declared in a letter that “safeguarding human lives at sea is a priority” above other considerations such as “nationality, status and immigration policy” and warned that the implementation by the British government of “maritime returns to the French territorial waters runs the risk of having a negative impact on our cooperation. ‘ According to Darmanin, “the French position on intervention at sea remains unchanged” and is governed by “strict respect for international maritime law governing search and rescue at sea.”
The minister also responded to the proposal of the United Kingdom to create a single force to prevent human trafficking at sea, that “coordination between our forces on the coast is, according to the teams themselves, good and efficient” and therefore does not it requires “the creation of new structures, through a single joint command center.”
Very vehement were also the statements of the deputy for Calais Pierre-Henri Dumont, who assured that the return of the boats is a violation of “the UN Geneva conventions that grant the right to everyone to request asylum in any country” and is a “flagrant violation of human rights laws” as well as a “Insult to the dignity of those seeking asylum.” “The United Kingdom left the EU, but did not leave the international community or the UN,” he settled.
France denounces “blackmail”
France also accused the Johnson government of “financial blackmail,” after it emerged that Patel threatened the neighboring country withn not transfer the funds to which it pledged in July to finance a greater police presence on the Gallic coasts in the period 2021-2022 and which amount to 55 million pounds sterling, just over 60 million euros. Deputy Dumont told the BBC in this regard: “We have between 300 and 400 kilometers of coastline to watch day and night, and it is impossible to put police officers every hundred meters.”
Some Tory MPs were in favor of the measure, but questioned the real ability to implement it, as is the case with Tim Loughton, a member of the Commons select committee on home affairs, who noted that immigrants could drown due to the vulnerability of ships. An Interior source quoted by the newspaper ‘The Guardian’ said that this is only “part of the reform” of the entire immigration system and considered that it is expected to have “a deterrent effect” on people who want to risk crossing the channel. Sources from the border forces union explain that they do not believe that the measure will be put into practice either. for being too dangerous.
A record number of approximately 14,000 immigrants have crossed the English Channel in small boats so far this year, a figure well above the 8,400 in 2020, and with a maximum of 828 in a single day registered in August. Yesterday, British authorities intercepted 301 people, while the French reported that they had prevented 302 people from reaching Britain.