Poor management of immigration makes the UK “too attractive” for migrants, France’s outspoken Interior Minister has said, in the wake of the death of 27 people in the English Channel on Wednesday.
Gérald Darmanin used a radio interview on RTL to once again criticise the British for encouraging illegal immigration through its allegedly lax welfare system and poorly regulated labour market.
He claimed there were 6000 deportations a year in Britain, compared to four times that figure in France – a country where “there are twice as many illegal immigrants,” said Mr Darmanin.
He added: “Everyone knows that there are more than a million illegal immigrants in the UK and that English employers use this workforce.”
Mr Darmanin even appeared to welcome Mr Johnson’s suggestion that British police should be allowed to help combat people smugglers on French soil.
He said: “Britain and France must work together. We must stop being the only ones fighting the smugglers. We are telling our Belgian, German and English friends that they must help us.”
Mr Darmanin said a fifth alleged people smuggler faced manslaughter charges in connection with the sunk boat.
It comes after dramatic headlines dominated France’s media on Thursday as the country faced up to the worst migrant tragedy on home territory in its history.
“They were men, women, children, human,” wrote Le Monde as it reported “the anger” of aid groups “after the death of 27 migrants in the Channel”.
It continued: “It is an unprecedented tragedy that unfolded off Calais’ in French waters”.
Liberation ran the headline: “In Calais – a tragedy without parallel,” writing: “It was the deadliest accident [of its kind] to ever occur in the English Channel.”
Questions raised by Le Monde, included: “Did the inflatable boat deflate? Has her floor collapsed under the weight of the men?”
A crisis meeting was meanwhile taking place at the Interior Ministry in Paris, where politicians and civil servants were trying to find answers.
Just as importantly, they were dealing with a diplomatic row with the British which has been inflamed by the deaths.
It followed French President Emmanuel Macron warning Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stop the “politicisation of migrant flows for domestic gain”.
The leaders spoke during an urgent phone call late on Wednesday, and antipathy towards Britain continued well into Thursday morning.