"Britain must do its bit" on migrant crisis - Interior Minister
Migrants – Replies by M. Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior, to questions in the National Assembly (excerpts)
Paris, 30 November 2021
Everyone was obviously overwhelmed with emotion when we heard about the 27 deaths in the Channel: pregnant women, three children… Those people, who were fleeing misery, had sometimes been in France only a few hours or a few days. One of the two survivors, that Iraqi citizen (…), had been in France for barely six days; a fortnight earlier, he had crossed the Belarusian border. Migration is an old phenomenon, but there are new flows; what happens in Syria, Afghanistan and Belarus has repercussions on the Calais coast and, beyond that, all over the world.
So the issue is complex and we must resolve it by combating the people-smugglers but also, as you said, by working with our British friends.
What the Government is calling for is work on an equal basis, and equanimity, in talks with our British friends. The President expressed regret – and I’m doing the same now – about the very profound difference that exists between our private discussions with the British Government and our public discussions, in the House of Commons or in the press.
So following the Defence Council convened by the President, the Prime Minister is going to propose a new, constructive phase. (…) In the Brexit negotiation agreement the issue of migration wasn’t provided for; so it’s our responsibility to do that work now. It deserves clarity, and it must provide for equal treatment, because Britain must do its bit: 150,000 asylum applications in France, 30,000 in Britain. (…)
Our work builds on the work done by the previous government. In this regard, let me remind you that it was the brave [former interior] minister Bernard Cazeneuve who largely enabled this problem to be resolved. (…)
We’ve continued that action, given that there are currently 15 times fewer migrants in Calais, Dunkirk and Grande-Synthe than five years ago.
Regarding the Le Touquet agreement, which is sometimes condemned, (…) it has nothing to do with the situation we’re in, and banging on about it won’t resolve the problem.
The Le Touquet agreement was the result of negotiation in the fields of legal immigration and tourism and was reached at a time when migrants were travelling to the UK via the tunnel and the port. We now find virtually no more migrants in those two places. (…)
This is why they’re taking to small boats. So you can renegotiate the agreement all you like, it won’t change a thing: migrants on the coast, at Bray-Dunes, Dunkirk or Calais aren’t finding out about the international agreement allowing tourists to travel by Eurostar or the tunnel, before they cross the Channel!
As the President said, what we need is a negotiation with a view to an agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. (…)
These people don’t want to stay in France or consider a future for themselves in our country: they want to go to the UK! Why? Because 60% of them are eligible for asylum in that country, whereas only 3% make an application on our territory. (…)./.