The grim visual of a child after being rescued while crossing the English Channel in Dungeness, Britain, seeks to underscore the migrants’ issue yet again. It has now generated a standoff between the United Kingdom and France, most particularly after Boris Johnson advised the government in Paris to take back the homeless who reach the shores of Britain in search of hearth and home.
The Anglo-French diplomatic spat has intensified in the immediate aftermath of the death of 27 people who perished while trying to cross the English Channel. This has been rated as one of the deadliest disasters ever in the Channel. France has been remarkably swift in binning the British appeal as “unacceptable”.
Furthermore, it has “disinvited” Britain’s home secretary, Priti Patel, from attending a crucial meeting on the migrant crisis in Calais on Sunday. The AngloFrench kerfuffle reaffirms the diplomatic hurdles the two nations are facing over the persistent tension over Brexit, discord over trade and fishing rights and the French anger in the immediate aftermath of the AUKUS deal with Britain’s two partners.
In a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested a “bilateral readmissions agreement to allow all illegal migrants who cross the Channel to be returned”. Albeit indirectly, this implied that if France took back migrants it would be a major step towards resolving the problem.
At another remove, the French government has condemned the letter as one that is “both poor in content and completely inappropriate in its form. Enough with the doublespeak, enough with the constant externalization of problems.” There was a heartrending tragedy in the English Channel last Wednesday. About 30 migrants ~ men, women and children in the main ~ were shipwrecked in the Channel’s frigid waters and most of them drowned. French prosecutors have started an investigation to determine the circumstances of the disaster.
The number of migrants setting off into the sea has increased considerably in recent months as France has cracked down on other routes to Britain, especially by ferry, truck or train through the tunnel under the Channel. In his letter to President Macron, Prime Minister Johnson has described it as a “dangerous route”. An agreement with France will have an “immediate and significant impact”. Sadly, there is discord at the helm.