SHARE
COPY LINK

IMMIGRATION

Crackdown in northern France prompts surge in migrants attempting to cross English Channel

Over 2,300 migrants had to be rescued attempting to cross the English Channel in 2019, four times the number for 2018, local authorities in northern France said on Tuesday.

Crackdown in northern France prompts surge in migrants attempting to cross English Channel
This handout photograph taken and released by the French Marine Nationale on August 5, 2019 shows migrants sitting in an inflatable dinghy rescued by French coast guards while trying to cross the Chan

In total 261 cases of crossings or attempted crossings were recorded by the French and British authorities, mainly in small, often overloaded, inflatable boats, the Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea told AFP. 

Some 2,358 people had to be rescued compared to 586 in 2018.

Over the past year, growing numbers of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia have taken to the treacherous waters of the Channel in small fishing boats or inflatable dinghies.

Rights groups have linked the crossings to a police crackdown to prevent the establishment of migrant camps in Calais and other areas along the French coast.

At least four migrants died in 2019 attempting to make the dangerous crossing in the Channel, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, with strong currents and icy waters. 

A spokesman for the UK's Home Office said a Border Force cutter and two coastal patrol vessels were patrolling the Channel.

“There has also been a doubling of patrols on French beaches and drones, specialist vehicles and detection equipment have been deployed to stop small boats leaving French shores and arriving in the UK illegally.

“Individuals who reach the UK illegally should be in no doubt about our determination to return them to Europe as it is an established principle that those in need of protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach.”

Member comments

  1. Crossing the channel in a rubber boat must be a bit like trying to open a page on this site now. Slow and tedious.

  2. Hi Boggy,

    We are currently experiencing technical issues that we are hoping to solve very soon. We are really sorry about the inconvenience caused.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

SHOW COMMENTS