British navy to patrol Channel for migrants crossing from France

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that the navy would take over patrolling the Channel for migrants trying to cross from France.

British navy to patrol Channel for migrants crossing from France
The British Navy patrol vessel HMS Tamar. Illustration photo by PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP

“From today, the Royal Navy will take over operational command from Border Force in the Channel,” Johnson said in a speech announcing a plan to send those who made the crossing to Rwanda.

Johnson announced extra funds for boats, aircraft and surveillance equipment to patrol the Channel and detain people-smugglers.

“This will send a clear message to those piloting the boats. If you risk other people’s lives in the Channel, you risk spending your own life in prison,” he said.

The British government made a deal with France in 2021 to pay €63 million to double the number of gendarmes patrolling the French coast, although a dispute later erupted over whether the money had actually been paid. British sources say the issue has now been resolved.

READ ALSO What is France doing to prevent small boat crossings?

The issue of Channel crossing has caused tension between French and British politicians, with the British accusing the French of not doing enough to stop people smugglers and an increasing number of French politicians suggesting scrapping the Le Touquet agreement, which put the UK border in northern France.

READ ALSO What is the Le Touquet treaty and why do French politicians want to scrap it?

The British government has announced that migrants and asylum seekers arriving in the UK will be flown to Rwanda for processing.

Kigali on Thursday announced that it had signed a multi-million-dollar deal to do the job, during a visit by British Home
Secretary Priti Patel.

“Rwanda welcomes this partnership with the United Kingdom to host asylum seekers and migrants, and offer them legal pathways to residence” in the East African nation, Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said in a statement.

The deal with Rwanda will be funded by the UK to the tune of up to €144 million, with migrants “integrated into communities across the country,” it said.

“This is about ensuring that people are protected, respected, and empowered to further their own ambitions and settle permanently in Rwanda if they choose,” said Biruta.

During political disputes between France and the UK over post-Brexit fishing licences, British Navy ships were sent to the island of Jersey, where French fishermen were holding a demonstration. 

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Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.