France warns Britain against ‘blackmail’ over migrant crossings

France warns Britain against 'blackmail' over migrant crossings
Priti Patel and Gérald Darmanin on a visit to Calais in July 200. Photo: Denis Charlet/AFP
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on Thursday that France would not accept Britain violating international maritime law or 'financial blackmail' as London steps up efforts to prevent migrants crossing the Channel.

“France will not accept any practice that breaks maritime law, nor any financial blackmail,” Darmanin wrote on Twitter.

“Britain’s commitments must be respected. I said this clearly to my counterpart” Priti Patel during a meeting on Wednesday.

He added: “The friendship between our two countries deserves better than posturing that undermines cooperation between our services.”

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His comments come at a time of increasing tension between the British and French governments over the issue of migrant crossings of the Channel.

In July, Britain pledged €62.7 million for 2021-2022 to help France stem the flow of illegal migrants crossing the Channel.

That included doubling police patrols along certain sections of the French coastline.

However, the UK government has since been quoted as saying that it may withold the money.   

A record 828 people crossed over from France on a single day in late August, as traffickers took advantage of favourable late-summer weather.

The growing number of boats is proving increasingly embarrassing for Patel, who has carved out a reputation for being tough on immigration and law and order.

“Taking back control” of Britain’s border was a key part of the campaign to take the country out of the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Several British newspapers on Thursday reported that Patel has now secured legal advice and sanctioned the use of “pushback” tactics to turn back the small boats before they reach Britain’s south coast.

Patel and Darmanin met on Wednesday in London during G7 meetings.

Darmanin earlier warned in a letter that the new tactics “would risk having a negative impact on our cooperation”.

“Safeguarding human lives at sea takes priority over considerations of nationality, status and migratory policy, out of strict respect for the international maritime law governing search and rescue at sea,” he wrote in the letter, dated September 6th.

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