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France rejects joint Channel border patrols with UK in letter to Johnson

Johnson wrote a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron last week proposing joint patrols.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

FRANCE HAS FORMALLY rejected the idea of joint patrols with British security forces on its Channel coast in a letter from French Prime Minister Jean Castex to his British counterpart Boris Johnson.

In the letter seen by AFP, Castex wrote that “we cannot accept … that British police or soldiers patrol on our coasts. It’s a question of sovereignty and I know your government’s sensitivity towards respecting the sovereignty of others”.

Johnson wrote a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron last week proposing joint patrols as well as the systematic return of migrants arriving in England from France after crossing the Channel.

His decision to make it public caused fury in Paris where Macron condemned his approach as “not serious”.

“Sending migrants back to us is not an option and is not a serious or responsable way of tackling the issue,” a source in the prime minister’s office said today.

The French letter, sent yesterday evening to Johnson and shared with journalists today, began by saying that “every country must face up to its responsibilities”.

It said France had deployed 700 police officers to patrol the coast, while 41 people-smuggling rings had been broken up since the start of the year.

It added that “managing the presence of migrants that want to go to your country falls firstly on France, which is not normal”.

“In fact, a large part of the solution is not to be found in France, but in the United Kingdom,” Castex wrote.

He urged Britain to adopt “a more efficient returns policy” to deport failed asylum seekers, as well as opening up legal migration routes for “those who have legitimate reasons to want to come to your country”.

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“Only you can ensure that your labour market is sufficiently controlled to discourage people wanting to work illegally,” he wrote.

It also warned Britain against pushing back migrant boats, an option that has been under discussion by the government in London, saying this would “endanger the lives of migrants and would break maritime law”.

Franco-British relations have dived again since the death of at least 27 migrants in a boat attempting to cross the Channel from France to England on 24 November.

© AFP 2021

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