France: UK's 'soft' asylum system attracting record Channel migrants

Britain should take in more migrants amid surge of people travelling to UK on small boats, French government says

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought to England's southern coast at Dover, Kent, by members of the UK Border Force. Getty
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France has called for Britain to take in a share of English Channel migrants as record numbers of people leave French beaches for the UK.

Clement Beaune, France's Secretary of State for European Affairs, suggested that Britain’s asylum system, which he described as attractive to migrants, was partly responsible for the problem.

He said the EU should seek a new pact with Britain to address the sea crossings.

A record 828 people crossed the Channel on Saturday in 30 separate journeys, many of them on dangerously overcrowded small boats.

It far surpassed the previous record of 482 people, which was set only weeks earlier.

London provides funds to Paris to stem the flow of migrants from its shores. But Mr Beaune said France still faced costs.

“We are the ones who have paid a high price over the past 10 years — we see it in Calais regarding organisation, humanitarian aid and police checks,” he said on French television.

“We must, after Brexit, have a new migratory deal between the EU and Britain so that we can expel, or direct a certain number of migrants to the UK so they can request asylum.

“We have seen sometimes that it is the attractiveness of Britain's asylum system that is in question.”

Mr Beaune said migrants could be transported to Britain in safe and organised crossings, rather than the perilous journeys which many currently make.

Traffickers are using ever larger boats to crowd even more people on board and increase their profits, investigators believe.

Boat crossings have increased since the start of the pandemic. Fewer people stowed away in lorries after travel restrictions were brought in.

A French Maritime Gendarme looks through a pair of binoculars as he and his colleagues search for migrants trying to cross the Channel. AFP

Dan O’Mahoney, Britain’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, said stepped-up border controls in France had let to hundreds of arrests.

But the journeys are a political headache for the British government, which has pledged to tighten UK borders after Brexit.

Britain said a further 10 crossing attempts were intercepted by French police, preventing another 193 people from reaching UK waters.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has promised to make the Channel route unviable. Draft legislation calls for stricter penalties on smugglers and illegal migrants.

She last month pledged new funding to help France stem the flow of migrants, including funding to double the number of officers patrolling beaches.

Britain said it would pay €62.7 million ($73.9m) over the next year to support France’s efforts.

Mr O’Mahoney said authorities were “determined to take down the evil criminal gangs” responsible for the crossings.

Updated: August 26, 2021, 10:49 AM