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After Deaths, Macron Tells UK to 'Get Serious' on Migrants

France disinvites British official from meeting over unwelcome proposals
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 26, 2021 10:12 AM CST
After Deaths, Macron Tells UK to 'Get Serious' on Migrants
A migrants' makeshift camp is set up along the river in Loon Plage, near Grande-Synthe, northern France, on Friday.   (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)

(Newser) – France and Britain are butting heads over how to address the migrant crisis in the Channel following the deaths of 17 men; seven women, one of whom was pregnant; and three children on Wednesday, per the BBC. French President Emmanuel Macron told Britain to "get serious" after Prime Minister Boris Johnson requested that France take back all migrants who illegally cross the 45-mile stretch of water between the two countries in a public letter shared Thursday on Twitter, per Reuters. A French government spokesman quickly deemed it "unacceptable." It's "clearly not what we need to solve this problem," Gabriel Attal said, per the AP, adding Britain Home Secretary Priti Patel was now disinvited to a European meeting in Calais to discuss the problem, set for Sunday.

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Relations between the two countries have been strained for weeks by the migrant crisis and a submarine deal, but that statement marked "a sharp deterioration," per the AP. Johnson had also proposed that British border officials be allowed to patrol the beaches of northern France and that both countries be permitted maritime patrols and airborne surveillance in each other's waters. Macron himself said he'd had a serious discussion with Johnson after Wednesday's tragedy, but the methods proposed "are not serious," per the BBC. British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps countered that Johnson made the proposals in "good faith." "I don’t think there is anything inflammatory to ask for close co-operation with our nearest neighbors," he added.

French officials, however, fault Britain for making itself too attractive to migrants, who can easily remain and work in the country. Doctors Without Borders has also faulted the UK for its "harsh migration policies" following a crackdown at the France-UK border, per NBC News. Robert McNeil of the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory tells the outlet that the only route to asylum is to "actively arrive on UK soil." More than 23,000 people have done so via small boat this year, up from 8,500 last year, according to the British government. More than 90% of those who made the crossing between January 2020 and May 2021 came from 10 countries "where human rights abuses and persecution are common," including Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria, according to a Refugee Council report. (Read more migrants stories.)

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