The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has asked France to return migrants who have crossed the Channel.
After at least 27 people perished when their boat foundered off the coast of Calais, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote to French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, requesting that France begin bringing back all migrants who arrive in England after crossing the Channel.
In a letter to Macron on Thursday evening, he said that returning migrants “would greatly reduce — if not stop — the crossings, saving thousands of lives by fundamentally disrupting the business model of the criminal groups” driving the trafficking.
The rising anti-immigrant sentiment and debate over what some believe is a callous attitude in both capitals has made the unprecedented number of illegal migrants attempting to cross the English Channel a combustible issue for both governments.
Johnson’s letter also outlined areas where the two countries could work together more closely, including combined border patrols, aerial surveillance, and intelligence sharing.
“We’re prepared to commence such patrols as early as next week,” Johnson added.
After the deadliest disaster since the waterway became a significant route for migrants from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia seeking to reach England from France in 2018, Britain and France called for a coordinated European action to end people trafficking in the Channel.
According to a statement, Home Secretary Priti Patel met with her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin to discuss ideas for increased “collaboration and innovation.”
According to the report, the two will meet this weekend, and Patel will dispatch officers to Paris after offering to give extra personnel on the ground.
Even as Paris convened an emergency meeting of European ministers over the weekend, the response risked being hampered by ongoing Franco-British squabbles in the aftermath of Brexit.
Macron spoke to Johnson earlier in the day after pledging that France would not allow the Channel to become a “cemetery,” and the two agreed to boost up efforts to intercept the traffickers blamed for the spike of crossings.
Macron reminded Johnson that France and the UK had a “shared responsibility,” and that he “expects the British to collaborate completely and refrain from exploiting a grave situation for political goals,” according to a short summary of the meeting from the Elysee Palace.
Patel had previously declined to rule out the controversial measure of sending migrant boats back across the Channel, which is currently being debated in parliament.
“France is a transit country, and we’re battling against these smuggler networks that profit from people’s misery,” Macron said during a visit to Croatia, adding that when the migrants came, “European collaboration must increase.” The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.