France accuses UK of ‘lack of humanity’ on Ukraine refugees

France on Saturday accused Britain of an inadequate response and lacking humanity in assisting Ukrainian refugees who are seeking to join family in the UK from the French Channel port of Calais.

France accuses UK of 'lack of humanity' on Ukraine refugees
France's Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin speaks to the press after a meeting with the French prefects about welcoming Ukranian fleeing their country, at the Interior Ministry at Place Beauvau in Paris, on March 1, 2022. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

Hundreds of Ukrainians have come to Calais in the last days after fleeing the Russian invasion of their country hoping to join relatives already established in the UK.  

The response of the UK is “completely unsuitable” and shows a “lack of humanity” towards refugees who are often “in distress”, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a letter to British counterpart Priti Patel seen by AFP, urging London to set up a proper consular presence in Calais to issue visas.  

Darmanin said that in the last days 400 Ukrainian refugees have presented themselves at Calais border crossings but some 150 of them were told go go away and obtain visas at UK consulates in Paris or Brussels.  

France had said Thursday that Britain would set up a pop-up visa centre in Calais to issue visas after Britain announced a family scheme to allow immediate and extended family members of Ukrainians settled in the UK to travel there.  

“It is imperative that your consular representation, exceptionally and for the duration of this crisis, is able to issue visas for family reunification on the spot in Calais,” said Darmanin.  

He said it was “incomprehensible” that the UK was able to provide such services on the ground in Poland on the Ukrainian border but could not in the UK’s closest neighbour France.  

Darmanin’s letter to Patel comes months after a new surge in post-Brexit tensions between the two countries in the wake of the drowning in November 2021 of 27 migrants seeking to illegally cross the Channel to England in a small boat.  

The tragedy prompted both sides to exchange accusations of not doing enough to protect migrants and crack down on people traffickers who organise the dangerous crossings in small boats.  

“Our coasts have been the scene of too many human tragedies,” Darmamin told Patel, alluding to the risk that Ukrainians could seek to cross clandestinely by sea if they did not obtain visas. 

“Let’s not add to that those Ukrainian families,” he said.

SEE ALSO: How to help Ukrainians in Paris and across France

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Macron to call Putin after G20 summit

President Emmanuel Macron will call counterpart Vladimir Putin after a Group of 20 summit in Bali where the Russian leader is expected to face strong pressure, a French official said on Monday.

Macron to call Putin after G20 summit

Macron “will call him after the G20,” the senior Elysee official told reporters, lamenting Putin’s “isolation” over the invasion of Ukraine.

The French president has maintained lines of communication with Putin despite the conflict, and will “continue to talk,” the official added.

Macron will also tell China’s Xi Jinping it is in Beijing’s “interest” to “pressure” Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

He will meet the Chinese leader Tuesday morning on the sidelines of the summit on the Indonesian island of Bali and tell him “your interest, like mine, is to put pressure on Russia so it returns to the negotiating table and respects international law.”

Macron held numerous calls with Putin in the early days of the war. The French president’s call with his Russian counterpart on the eve of the invasion was unsuccessful and led to much criticism.

Macron‘s engagement has brought unease from some Eastern European nations wary of Russia although France insists that it has coordinated its diplomacy with allies.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna recently acknowledged the limited success with Putin but said it was important to try.

“We absolutely think it is crucial to keep a channel of communication with those making the decisions in Russia, including President Putin,” Colonna said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Putin is probably isolated in his very strange vision of the world and the way it could be run. Reinforcing this isolation of his would not be a good option,” she said.

Macron‘s talks with Putin did help secure a mission by the UN nuclear watchdog to travel to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.