After the death of at least 27 migrants in the Channel on Wednesday, November 24, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed in a telephone interview on the evening of« Intensify their efforts » and of « Keep all options on the table » to fight smuggling gangs organizing illegal Channel crossings, according to a Downing Street spokesperson.
Mr. Macron has « Let know » to Mr. Johnson « That he expected the British to cooperate fully and refrain from using a dramatic situation for political ends », said the Elysee on Thursday. « The President of the Republic insisted on the need to act with dignity, respect and in a spirit of effective cooperation when it comes to human lives », added the French presidency, specifying that « The French and British interior ministers will meet[aie]nt Thursday about it ». A little earlier, Mr. Macron had assured that « France will not leave[it] not La Manche become a cemetery ” and had demanded « An emergency meeting of European ministers ».
On Thursday, the British government offered France joint police patrols on the French coast along the Channel. British Immigration Secretary of State Kevin Foster stressed that London was ready to offer » ways « additional to France, beyond its financial assistance, such as the helicopter deployed on Wednesday as part of the rescue operation.
“We’re willing to offer support on the ground, we’re willing to offer resources, we’re willing to offer, literally, people to go. [sur la côte française] and assist the French authorities ”, he told the BBC. “It is not in anyone’s best interest for this to continue. «
He explained that the Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel, would meet in the morning with her French counterpart, Gerald Darmanin. According to Tom Pursglove, Secretary of State for Immigration Compliance and Courts, Mr Johnson reiterated in the telephone interview a proposal – previously rejected by Paris on the grounds of sovereignty – d » organize Franco-British patrols on the French coasts in order to prevent migrants from boarding. « I really hope that the French will reconsider this proposal », he told the BBC on Wednesday night.
This question of crossings, which regularly stirs up tensions between London and Paris, is delicate for the Conservative government of Mr Johnson, which has made the fight against immigration its hobbyhorse in the wake of Brexit.
Following a crisis meeting on Wednesday, Mr Johnson criticized the French, saying they had not done so » quite « to prevent crossings, despite aid of more than 60 million euros to strengthen the surveillance of their coastline. « What we are proposing is to increase our support, but also to work with our partners on the beaches concerned », he had declared.
A fifth person arrested
A fifth person suspected of being a smuggler was arrested overnight from Wednesday to Thursday. Four suspected smugglers were arrested late Wednesday afternoon, suspected of having a link with the sinking.
Prime Minister Jean Castex is holding an interministerial meeting on Thursday morning on « Migrant crossings in the English Channel following the dramatic sinking ». The interior ministers, Gérald Darmanin, justice, Eric Dupond-Moretti, armies, Florence Parly, sea, Annick Girardin, transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, foreign affairs, were to be present at this meeting. Jean-Yves Le Drian, and the Secretary of State for Europe, Clément Beaune, detailed Matignon on Wednesday.
Among the victims are 17 men, seven women and three young people, as well as two survivors, according to the prosecutor of Lille. There would be a teenager and 3 children among the victims, said a police source. The two survivors, an Iraqi and a Somali, were in « Severe hypothermia yesterday » corn « A little better today », said Thursday on RTL the Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, specifying that they would be quickly heard.
According to Mr. Darmanin, the fifth smuggler arrested on the night of Wednesday to Thursday had « A German license plate ». He had « Bought Zodiacs in Germany », he added, explaining that he had no details on the circumstances of the tragedy.
The drama unfolded on a « Long boat », a fragile inflatable boat with a flexible bottom, widely used by smugglers since the summer. The boat left from Dunkirk, according to a source familiar with the matter. The wreckage was seized and will be examined to clarify the causes of the sinking, announced the prosecutor.
The specialized interregional jurisdiction (JIRS) of Lille was seized of the investigation, opened for « Help with irregular entry and stay in an organized group », « Manslaughter and unintentional injury » and » conspiracy « . The border police, the maritime gendarmerie and the Central Office for the Suppression of Irregular Immigration and the Employment of Untitled Foreigners (Ocriest) are seized, according to the police source.
« Mafia organizations »
« Since the 1er January, we arrested 1,500 smugglers ”, assured Mr. Darmanin Thursday. Smugglers who function as « Mafia organizations » who « Fall under organized crime », with the use in particular of « Encrypted phones ». There are « Criminal associations » in Belgium, Germany and England, the minister said, arguing that countries should work » together « on this topic.
The tragedy, feared by the authorities and associations, is by far the deadliest since the sudden increase, in 2018, in migratory crossings of the Channel, in the face of the growing lockdown of the port of Calais and Eurotunnel, used until then. by migrants trying to reach England.
Attempts to cross the Channel on board small boats have doubled in the past three months, the maritime prefect of the Channel and the North Sea, Philippe Dutrieux, had recently warned.
As of 20 November, 31,500 migrants had left the coasts since the start of the year and 7,800 migrants had been rescued, while at least three had died and four were missing. A trend that has not abated despite the winter temperatures. According to London, 22,000 migrants made the crossing over the first ten months of the year.