Monday, 6 Dec 2021

‘Insulting!’ French MP loses it over claims France is trying to ‘get rid’ of migrants

French police round up migrants on coaches

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France said on Thursday it will beef up the surveillance of its northern shores, but migrants huddling in makeshift camps said neither that nor a tragic drowning the day before would stop them from trying to cross the Channel to Britain. A total of 27 people died on Wednesday when their dinghy deflated in the Channel, one of many such risky journeys attempted in rickety, overloaded boats by people fleeing poverty and war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond. Mr Bonnell said it is “insulting” to accuse the French of trying to “get rid” of them.

Mr Bonnell told Times Radio: “We are the country of human rights and we know that we’re proud of it.

“Thinking of the French people as considering those migrants as like tokens for obscure negotiations or to get rid of human beings is just insulting.

“Really, I think that’s the worst part of politics.

“When people start to talk like this, I rather tell them that they should probably focus on some other businesses because really, politics is not about taking people’s lives for an obscure reason and obscure discussion at the low political level.”

The deaths deepened animosity between Britain and France, already at odds over Brexit, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying France was at fault and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin accusing Britain of “bad immigration management”.

With relations fraught over Brexit and immigration, much of the focus on Thursday was on who should bear responsibility, even if both sides vowed to seek joint solutions.

President Emmanuel Macron defended Paris’s actions but said France was merely a transit country for many migrants and more European cooperation was needed to tackle illegal immigration.

“I will … say very clearly that our security forces are mobilised day and night,” Macron said during a visit to the Croatian capital Zagreb, promising “maximum mobilisation” of French forces, with reservists and drones watching the coast.

French police round up migrants on coaches

“But above all, we need to seriously strengthen cooperation … with Belgium, the Netherlands, Britain, and the European Commission.”

Wednesday’s incident was the worst of its kind on record in the waterway separating Britain and France, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

But migrants in a small makeshift camp in the outskirts of Dunkirk, near the seashore, said they would keep trying to reach Britain, no matter the risks.

“Yesterday is sad and it is scary but we have to go by boat, there is no other way,” said 28-year old Manzar, a Kurd from Iran, huddled by a fire alongside a few friends.

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“Maybe it’s dangerous, maybe we die, but maybe it will be safe. We have to try our chance. It’s a risk, we already know it is a risk,” said the young man, who left Iran six months ago and arrived in France 20 days ago, after walking across Europe.

Britain on Thursday repeated an offer to have joint British-French patrols off the French coast near Calais.

Paris has resisted such calls and it is unclear whether it will change its mind five months before a presidential election in which migration and security are important topics.

They are also sensitive issues in Britain, where Brexit campaigners told voters that leaving the European Union would mean regaining control of the country’s borders. London has in the past threatened to cut financial support for France’s border policing if Paris fails to stem the flow of migrants.

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