For a few days, France and the United Kingdom have been arguing rather heatedly over immigration management. Tensions have escalated following the recent increase in the number of migrants attempting to cross the Channel to reach the UK, and after the latter threatened the pushback of boats carrying migrants. In response, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted Thursday that “France will not accept any practices contrary to the law of the sea” or “financial blackmail”.
Last July the two countries reached an agreement on a plan to reduce immigration through this route – which is also very dangerous – which provided for funding from the United Kingdom of over 62 million euros, to be used to increase surveillance along the route. costa and the staff to be employed in border control. The “financial blackmail” mentioned by Darmanin refers to the hypothesis that the United Kingdom is considering suspending this economic contribution. According to sources of the Times, this hypothesis would have been proposed in recent days by the British Interior Minister Priti Patel, during a meeting with some parliamentarians of the Conservative Party, which includes both her and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Given the increase in canal crossings, Darmanin and Patel met last Wednesday to discuss the issue, during which – writes the Financial Times – the first would have tried to convince the second of the fact that bringing the boats back to France is a violation of the law of the sea. After the meeting, the British Interior Ministry had made it known that “stopping crossings is a top priority for British citizens, and that tackling the scourge of illegal immigration and organized crime is a common challenge that neither country can. undertake alone ».
In 2021, about 13,500 migrants arrived in the United Kingdom on small boats, a relatively low number compared to other Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Spain, but already much higher than last year, when a total of 8,420 migrants arrived.
It is not clear what the development of the dispute may be. Darmanin is opposed to one of the options proposed by the United Kingdom, which is to form a shared command center between the intelligence of the two countries to counter the traffickers, and has also ruled out the possibility of finding a bilateral agreement for the return to France of the people who succeed. to cross the canal.
On the other hand, many of the opposition members and experts have doubts about the possibility that Patel will really be able to implement the hypothesized push-backs, because they are very dangerous operations and because of the lack of cooperation from France: every boat rejected by the authorities British would in fact need a French ship to take charge of them.