Kevin Saunders: France could do more to help the migrant crisis
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Footage released on Tuesday shows a group of French officers standing in a line on a beach in Calais as dozens of migrants climb unimpeded into rubber dinghies off the coast of France. Some officers are seen with their hands in their pockets, while another films the unfolding situation on a mobile phone.
The group of migrants, including women and young children, were given free rein to launch a boat into the water and travel across the English Channel.
The incident comes as the UK agreed to send France £54million to prevent the illegal crossings – but it appears to have done little to strengthen the French border.
More than 23,000 people have entered the UK this year – a record annual figure.
Franck Viandier, a local jogger along the beaches of Calais, claimed Gendarmerie officers are reluctant to get involved.
He said: “Sometimes there is a lot of police, I can see the fight sometimes.
“But they say to me ‘it is not our job to fight with these people, the people want to go to England, we are French police’.”
French authorities say more than 900 officers are deployed in the Calais region each day to try and prevent the illegal crossings.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is under increasing pressure to find a solution to the humanitarian crisis and held talks with her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin on Monday evening.
The Home Office issued a joint statement and both sides agreed to prevent “100 percent of crossings”, but this has since been disputed by Paris.
The statement read: “Both the Home Secretary and interior minister agreed to strengthen operational cooperation further.
“More must be done to stop the dangerous crossings.
“They agreed to accelerate the delivery of the commitments made in the joint agreement of July 2021 to deliver on their joint determination to prevent 100 percent of crossings and make this deadly route unviable.”
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However the French embassy has questioned the figure agreed, it tweeted: “For the record, the 100 percent figure was not agreed between the Home Secretary and French interior minister Darmanin and should not be presented as an agreed commitment: it is not.
“And it is not part of the joint statement.”
Earlier today, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab confirmed the Government is looking at processing migrants who cross the Channel in small boats overseas.
He told LBC Radio: “First of all, you’re always better off dealing with the flow of migrants from a crisis or a conflict in the region itself, our overwhelming focus is on that.
“It’s better for migrants, it’s better to be resettled and relocated nearer to your home.
“But to the extent that we get this flow over to the UK, it’s important to reduce the pull factor, we will work with all our partners – and it’s not just one country, we’ve looked at the Australian experience, we’ve been talking with the Danes about this and we want to make sure the processing if it’s possible – and that will depend on the goodwill and co-operation of partners – can be done elsewhere.”
The UK is reportedly looking at Albania as a possible destination for a processing centre and Number 10 has said “all options” were being considered.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “I’ve always been clear that we want to keep all options on the table.
“As illegal migration is an international issue, you’d expect us to have discussions with both France and other international partners to help reduce illegal migration.”
He added the UK had been in talks with a “number of countries”.
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