Kevin Saunders: France could do more to help the migrant crisis
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Calais’ Mayor Natacha Bouchart, 58, has responded to the death of at least 27 migrants in the English Channel by putting pressure on Boris Johnson, 57. The number of deaths had been reported to have totalled 31 but the total has since been revised down.
The International Organisation for Migration said the incident resulted in the largest single loss of life between the Channel.
Ms Bouchart, who became Mayor of Calais after serving in the French Senate, said: “The failure of Boris Johnson who obliges our country to endure this situation because he doesn’t have the courage to assume his own responsibilities … in his country.”
Ms Bouchart’s comments come as Reuters reports the French President Emmanuel Macron, 43, claimed Britain needed to stop politicising the Channel crossing crisis for domestic gain.
However, the Telegraph reports Ms Bouchart also criticised the “migratory policies” of successive French Governments.
Bouchart recalled: “We could see that abnormal pressure was building and that a tragedy was going to happen.”
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Following the incident, Mr Johnson convened an emergency COBRA meeting.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Johnson said he was “shocked, appalled and deeply saddened” and claimed human traffickers were “literally getting away with murder”.
The Prime Minister has also since made contact with President Macron.
A Number 10 spokesman said: “They agreed on the urgency of stepping up joint efforts to prevent these deadly crossings and to do everything possible to stop the gangs responsible for putting people’s lives at risk.
“They underlined the importance of close working with neighbours in Belgium and the Netherlands as well as partners across the continent if we are to tackle the problem effectively before people reach the French coast.
“Both leaders were clear that today’s tragic loss of life was a stark reminder that it is vital to keep all options on the table to stop these lethal crossings and break the business model of the criminal gangs behind them.”
However, with France just five months away from its 2022 Presidential Election, potential candidates have chimed in to offer their thoughts on the Channel crossing crisis.
Last week, the far-right candidate Eric Zemmour, 63, said France should rip up the Le Touquet accords.
Speaking about the measures, which moved the UK border to the French coast in 2003, Mr Zemmour said: “We are not at England’s beck and call or there to be paid to monitor your borders.”
According to the Telegraph, the President of Hauts-de-France Xavier Bertrand, 56, who is vying for the centre-right candidacy, is also calling for France to scrap the agreement.
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The EU’s ex-Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who looks set to compete against Mr Betrand for Les Republicans nomination, suggested he favoured reforming the Le Touquet accords.
But far-right National Rally’s Marine Le Pen, 53, who was trounced by Mr Macron in the final Presidential ballot in 2017, warned scrapping the agreement could result in “as many deaths in the Channel as in the Mediterranean”.
She told BFMTV: “Mr Bertrand’s idea to simply let the migrants go and by the same token to avenge British attitudes on fishing was totally counterproductive and would lead to more deaths.”
Le Pen warned: “But in no way can one use the migratory weapon. We can’t be like (Belarusian dictator Alexander) Lukashenko or (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan if one wants to be considered a politician worthy of the name.”
The Telegraph reports the left-wing Eurosceptic Jean-Luc Melenchon, 70, has also stepped away from the idea of ripping up the 18-year-old agreement.
Mr Melenchon, who finished in fourth place in 2017, said: “We must open up secure access to England. France is neither the border guard nor the jailor at the UK’s service.”
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