Four days after the worst migratory drama that occurred in the English Channel, where 27 people lost their lives after capsizing their boat, a European meeting was held this Sunday in Calais to strengthen the fight “against smuggling networks”, but without the British, excluded by France.
Bringing together the ministers in charge of immigration from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France, as well as the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, this intergovernmental working meeting will begin at 3 p.m. in the port city of northern France. The European criminal police agencies Europol and Frontex borders were represented there.
“An even more intense fight” against the smugglers
At the end of the meeting, Gérald Darmanin announced “an even more intense fight” against the smugglers, as well as the deployment of a European Frontex plane on December 1st. This aircraft will “fly day and night” over the area, from France to the Netherlands, he said. At the press conference, the minister also said: “We want to work with our British friends and allies. This meeting was not anti-British but pro-European.”
For his part, a senior official of the German Interior Ministry deemed “urgent” the adoption of “an agreement between the European Union and Great Britain” on migration.
UK “must now decide how to organize the management of border control”
The purpose of the meeting was “the fight against illegal immigration and smuggling networks”, according to the press note of the French Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, on Saturday evening. It is about strengthening “operational cooperation in the fight against smugglers because they are international networks that operate in different European countries”, argues the entourage of the minister.
The meeting took place, however, without the British party, however primarily concerned: Gérald Darmanin canceled the participation of his counterpart Priti Patel on Friday, in response to a letter published Thursday evening on Twitter by Boris Johnson, asking Paris to take back migrants arriving in Great Britain from France.
In a message to Ms. Patel, Gerald Darmanin said he was “disappointed” with the demands of the British Prime Minister and judged their publication “even worse”. President Emmanuel Macron had also criticized Boris Johnson for “not serious” methods.
On Saturday, European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas said it was up to Britain to resolve its problems relating to the influx of migrants. The United Kingdom “has left the European Union”, therefore it must now decide how to organize the management of its border control “, said Mr Schinas.
“Develop new solutions”
The British government insisted on Saturday that relations with France remained “strong”. The letter (from Mr Johnson) “recognizes absolutely everything the French government and authorities have done, that it is a shared challenge,” UK Secretary of State for Security told the BBC , Damian Hinds. “But now, particularly driven by this terrible tragedy, we must go further, deepen our partnership, expand what we do, develop new solutions,” he added.
The investigation into the shipwreck is being carried out at the National Jurisdiction in charge of the fight against organized crime (Junlaco) in Paris. But nothing has filtered, neither on the nationality of the victims nor on the causes of the sinking. Maryam Nuri Hama Amin, a young Iraqi Kurd who left to join her fiancé is among the victims, according to her family, in mourning.
According to rescuers, the castaways were aboard a “long boat”, an inflatable boat with a flexible bottom about ten meters long, the use of which has increased since the summer. Only an Iraqi and a Somali were saved. Hospitalized Wednesday in Calais, they were to be heard by investigators.
Regularly accused by London of not doing enough against these crossings, Paris highlights the means deployed on the coast to face them.
According to Gérald Darmanin, 30 channels of smugglers were dismantled over the first ten months of the year, against 22 for the year 2020. And since January 1, 1,500 people linked to these networks have been arrested. But the traffic does not weaken, Germany is now pointed out as a rear base for smugglers.
For associations helping migrants from Calais, however, the meeting risks not resolving anything, in particular because of the British absence. For François Guennoc, president of the Auberge des Migrants, “when the government accuses the smugglers, it is a way of hiding its own responsibilities”. “If there were possibilities of legal passages in Britain, there would be no smugglers,” he said. Juliette Delaplace, of the Catholic Secours Mission to the exiles, fears for her part a response “only repressive and security”.