Tensions flared between the UK and France on Thursday as the UK threatened to turn around migrant boats heading across the English Channel. “France will not accept any practice contrary to the law of the sea, nor any financial blackmail,” Gérald Darmanin, the French Interior Minister, wrote on Twitter Thursday morning.
Darmanin went on, insisting that “Britain’s commitment must be kept.” He appealed to the longstanding alliance between the two nations, arguing, “The friendship between our two countries deserves better than posturing that undermines cooperation between our services.”
The UK, for its part, has argued that France needs to do more to stop so many migrant boats from reaching England’s shores. Priti Patel, the UK’s interior minister, has reportedly said as much to Darmanin, making the issue of migrants something of a political hot potato being passed back and forth between the two countries.
Several UK publications on Thursday suggested that British Border Force personnel are receiving training to repel migrant boats. However, such methods are contrary to international law regarding asylum seekers and could be dangerous for the people on these ships.
In July, the UK announced it was paying the French government significant funds to help intercept migrants before they boarded boats bound for English shores. The partnership between the two countries has reportedly blocked over 10,000 people trying to get on small boats bound for the UK’s southern shores.
Authorities in the UK argue that the current asylum system gives too much power to the simple act of showing up inside the border of a sovereign country. “[T]here is more to do. The Government’s New Plan for Immigration is the only credible way to fix the broken asylum system, breaking the business model of criminal gangs and welcoming people through safe and legal routes,” says Britain’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, Dan O’Mahoney.
O’Mahoney’s argument mirrors that of much of the UK’s right-leaning government, which insists that the uptick in asylum seekers is being driven by criminal activity. Immigration has become a very thorny topic in much of Europe, with some politicians demanding that wealthy nations have a responsibility to help people who flee to their borders.
Others, meanwhile, argue that the current process of seeking asylum opens migrants up to the dangerous whims of criminal organizations. This led to the fundamental disagreement between politicians on either side of the political spectrum across many European countries.