Diplomatic tensions between the UK and France flared over the weekend due to the frequency of migrant boats crossing the Channel into England. The UK’s government has accused French officials of acting too casually about the situation, not doing their part to curtail the boats leaving from Northern France.
France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin snapped back at these accusations, insisting that the UK’s government needs to stop using the French as “punchbags in domestic politics.”
Darmanin also noted that “we don’t have any lessons to take from the British” with regards to foreign policy.
UK officials are antsy this week as a record number of migrants enter the country by boat from the English Channel. Last week, 1,185 immigrants entered the UK on a single day, a new record for daily arrivals to the country. This year has seen the number of newcomers to England double from 2020, causing some UK politicians to lash out at France.
British officials are calling on France to do more to stop the Channel crossings. Migrants who make the journeys get loaded into overcrowded, inflatable boats that can easily sink. Moreover, criminal organizations operate these vessels, which makes the endeavor extremely dangerous for migrants.
However, Darmanin blames the situation on the UK, not on France. “I will remind my British counterpart that the NGOs who prevent the police and gendarmerie from working are largely British NGOs with British citizens who are on French soil and are carrying out agitprop,” the French minister told reporters.
“Above all, we must tell our British friends that it’s an international question, migrants generally come from Africa, they generally come from Asia. Secondly, they need to take extremely strong decisions, and they must stop using us as punchbags in domestic politics,” he went on.
A spokesperson for the UN’s International Organisation for Migration also blamed the increased illegal Channel crossings on the UK itself. “Limited access to, or inadequate safe and legal avenues, are contributing to more people taking alternative means, including crossing the Channel in small boats,” the spokesperson told reporters.
The UK is an attractive choice for immigrants because of its lax work laws and lack of identification papers. Some newcomers also choose to immigrate to the UK because their friends or family have already established themselves there.