French and British interior ministers meet as tension over migration simmers

·2-min read

France has told Britain to stop "giving lessons" on migrants in an increasingly acrimonious row between London and Paris over the numbers crossing the Channel.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin made the comments ahead of talks with his British counterpart Priti Patel.

"Britain is in no position to be giving lessons to us," Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told CNews television on Monday.

Britain "should stop using us as a punch-ball in their domestic politics," he added.

The longstanding dispute has intensified in the last days after record numbers of migrants crossed the Channel to reach England from the French coast, with London accusing Paris of not doing enough to stop them.

The tensions have added to a litany of post-Brexit strains between Britain and France that also include a dispute over fishing rights that has threatened to spill over into a full-blown trade war.

In an unusually blunt criticism of France's neighbour, Darmanin implied it was the fault of the British government that so many migrants wanted to cross the Channel.

He accused British activists based in northern France around Calais and Dunkirk of impeding the work of the security forces.

Victims of politics

"I will remind my British counterpart that the NGOs that prevent the police and the gendarmerie from working are largely British NGOs with British citizens who are on French soil," he said.

And he added: "The smugglers, who organise networks and exploit women and children, are very often based in Britain."

He also argued that migrants were encouraged to leave for Britain because its labour market relied in part on "irregular workers employed at low cost".

"If the British changed their legislation very strongly -- and they did, but not enough -- people would no longer be in Calais or Dunkirk" waiting for a chance to cross the Channel, he said.

"We are the victims of British politics. We must not get this mixed up," he said.

More than 23,000 people have made the journey across the Channel to the UK by boat so far this year, a marked increase on the 8,400 in 2020.

According to British figures, a total of 1,185 migrants crossed the Channel on Thursday alone -- a new record that smashed the previous daily high of 853 -- due to cold but calm weather.

On Friday, three people who tried to cross in a canoe were reported missing.

Britain has described the figures as "unacceptable."

(with AFP)

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