French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Britain’s “labor force” of “illegal immigrants” is fueling heightened numbers of migrants making dangerous boat crossing across the Channel, a day after a vessel capsized off the French coast, leaving 27 dead — the highest death toll on record for such cases.
Darmanin said in an interview to the French radio station RTL on Thursday that “Everyone knows there are more than 1.2 million illegal immigrants in Great Britain, and that British employers use this labor force to make things that the British manufacture and consume.”
He also pointed the finger at “poor” immigration handling in Britain, and compared France’s deportation numbers to the U.K.’s: “It is often said that France doesn’t deport enough, but we deport about 20,000 people a year. [the U.K.] expels 6,000, four times less than France, even though there are more people and twice as many illegal immigrants.” The U.K. figure cited by Darmanin is correct for 2020, after a significant decrease in returns, according to the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory.
“Those responsible for this tragedy which took place yesterday in the Channel are the smugglers,” Darmanin said, “who for a few thousand euros promise Eldorado England, and unfortunately this has been repeated every day for 20 years.”
Darmanin maintains daily contacts with his counterpart, British Home Secretary Priti Patel. The two are expected to discuss the next steps the two countries can take to stop small boat crossings on Thursday morning.
“Since there are 27 dead in the Channel, I’m not going to play politics (…) France and Britain must work together,” he said.
He also called on his Belgian and German counterparts to fight against smugglers operating at an international level.
U.K. Immigration Minister Kevin Foster told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that “criminal gangs” who “view the people who died yesterday as a profit” were responsible for the tragedy, and said “finger pointing isn’t very helpful.”
He urged the U.K., France and the rest of Europe to work together to tackle the problem, and said “any maritime tactics would be deployed appropriately” to deter small boats.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that there had been “difficulties” in persuading the French “to do things in a way that we think the situation deserves,” as the U.K. renewed an offer of joint patrols along the French coast.