Boris Johnson has offered to work with France to “move farther and faster” to deal with small boat crossings and avoid a repeat of the “appalling tragedy” in the canal that killed 27 people.
The Prime Minister has written to the President Emmanuel Macron and states five steps that he thinks both sides should take “as soon as possible”.
Johnson’s letter comes after 27 people – 17 men, seven women and two teenage boys and a girl – died near Calais on Wednesday while trying to cross the English Channel to Britain in a thin boat.
The Prime Minister’s five-point plan means:
Joint patrols to prevent migrant boats from leaving French shores
• Use more advanced technology such as sensors and radar
• Carry out reciprocal maritime patrols in each nation’s territorial waters and take advantage of airborne surveillance
• “Deepen the work” in the Joint Intelligence Cell and ensure that there is better information sharing to push for more arrests and prosecutions
• To undertake “immediate work” to conclude a bilateral return agreement between Paris and London, as well as discussions on an agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU
“If those who reach this country quickly regained the incentive for people to put their lives in the hands of human traffickers, it would decrease significantly,” Johnson said.
“This would be the single biggest step we can take together to reduce the pull to the north of France and break the business model for criminal gangs.
“I am convinced that by taking these steps and building on our existing cooperation, we can tackle illegal migration and prevent more families from experiencing the devastating loss we saw yesterday.”
The Prime Minister said that after talking to the French President in the wake of Wednesday’s tragedy “I know President Macron, like me, realizes the urgency of the situation we both face.”
Interior Minister Priti Patel will meet with French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin this weekend to discuss the migrant crisis, along with counterparts from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
In his letter to Macron, Johnson said he was ready to “upgrade this meeting to a leadership-level summit or to arrange further bilateral discussions with you or with colleagues.”
Ms Patel and her French counterpart spoke by telephone on Thursday to “present plans for greater cooperation and innovation to stop these deadly crossings”.
Interior Ministry officials and law enforcement officials will be in Paris on Friday to “strengthen joint cooperation and share intelligence”.
Ms Patel, who is under pressure in the matter after promising in August 2020 to make the route across the English Channel “olive-rich”, also renewed an offer to send British officers to join patrols on French shores.
“No quick fix” to the migrant crisis
The Minister of the Interior previously told Commons there is “no quick fix” to deal with the intersections.
“This is about tackling long-term pull factors, crushing the criminal gangs that treat people as cargo and dealing with supply chains,” she said.
Macron said he was asking for more help from Britain.
“We will ask for extra help from the British because all these men and these women do not want to stay in France,” he said.
Only five migrants will return in 2021, the minister admits
“We tell them they can obviously do it, and there are centers in Calais and Dunkirk where they can go, but we will reinforce that they are actually rescued at sea.”
Natacha Bouchart, mayor of Calais, blamed the crisis on the British door and called on Johnson to “take responsibility”.
“The British government is to blame. I think Boris Johnson has cynically chosen to blame France for the past year and a half,” she said, according to French media.
And Franck Dhersin, vice president of transport in the northern Hauts-de-France region, said the “mafia bosses” leading the human trafficking networks live in Britain and must be arrested.
The Coast Guard warns ships that the Channel boat is sinking
Wednesday’s loss of human life is the worst of the migrant crisis, which has seen the number reaching the UK by sea increase from 8,417 by 2020 to more than 25,000 so far this year.
New figures from the Home Office show that asylum applications in the UK are at the highest level in almost 20 years, with more than 37,500 applications during the year to September.
A minister revealed last week that only five people had been returned to Europe after crossing the sea on small boats.
Expulsions as a whole – not just for people crossing the canal – are at a historically low level.
During the year to June 2021, they decreased to 2,910 – less than half of the previous year. The government blamed the fall on the pandemic.