Channel migrants latest news: Boris Johnson is not handling current crisis 'seriously', claims Emmanuel Macron

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·18 min read
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  • Emmanuel Macron
    Emmanuel Macron
    President of France
  • Boris Johnson
    Boris Johnson
    Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2019
  • Priti Patel
    Priti Patel
    British politician (born 1972)

Emmanuel Macron has lashed out at Boris Johnson as "not serious" after the Prime Minister shared a letter to the French president online in which he called on him to take back Channel migrants.

He spoke hours after the letter prompted Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, to disinvite his British counterpart Priti Patel from a meeting on Sunday in Calais between ministers from France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the European Commission.

"I'm surprised when things are not done seriously, we don't communicate between leaders via tweets or published letters, we are not whistle-blowers. Come on," he said during a joint conference with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

"From my part, I intend to continue doing what I do with all countries and all leaders. So, ministers will work seriously to tackle a serious question, with serious people... then we will see with the Brits how we can act effectively, if they decide to be serious."

Mr Johnson had called for a 'return agreement' which would see those who arrive on UK shores illegally sent back to France and joint patrols on the beaches of France.

Appearing on Sky News, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, insisted action is required on French beaches and "we can only do many of these things working with the French".

​​Follow the latest updates below.

11:35 AM

'The EU must suspend Schengen until it can secure its borders'

Little about the fallout from the latest tragedy in the English Channel has been edifying, but Emmanuel Macron’s call for a meeting of European ministers is informative, writes Henry Hill.

The President naturally has every incentive to try and present the issue as an EU problem, given that the alternative is that it’s a French problem. No harm in attempting to kick the blame up to a level where it is famously difficult to hold anybody democratically accountable.

But such motives don’t mean that he doesn’t have a point. The small boats crisis in the Channel is just one part of a much bigger problem to which the EU is still struggling to find an answer.

Three women with their belongings are seen at a makeshift migrant camp near Calais - Johanna Geron/Reuters
Three women with their belongings are seen at a makeshift migrant camp near Calais - Johanna Geron/Reuters

This situation could get much worse over the next few years, most obviously when the wave of people fleeing Afghanistan starts to reach the frontiers of Europe over the next few years.

Yet EU policies, especially the Schengen free-movement area, exacerbate the problem. Countries such as Greece, Italy and Poland face huge pressures because they are de facto policing the borders of Germany and France, where the vast majority of the migrants want to end up - even if it is as a staging post on the way to Britain.

Henry Hill: The small boats crisis forms part of a seismic European problem

11:19 AM

An audience with the Pope

Emmanuel Macron has met Pope Francis at the Vatican after signing a bilateral treaty with Italy prior to his arrival at the Vatican.

The meeting was scheduled to allow the Pope and Mr Macron to discuss relations between France and the Vatican in the fight "against obscurantism" and in "solidarity in the face of the climate and epidemic challenge".

Pope Francis has met with President Emmanuel Macron - Vatican Media/Reuters
Pope Francis has met with President Emmanuel Macron - Vatican Media/Reuters

The Pope will draw attention to asylum seekers and refugees during a visit to Greece next month.

11:05 AM

French government: Britain a migrant magnet that must start 'applying its rules'

The spokesman for the French government has said Britain acts as a magnet to migrants because they knew they faced little risk of being sent back to their countries of origin, Henry Samuel reports from France.

Gabriel Attal slammed Mr Johnson’s letter to President Macron as "both poor in substance and totally inappropriate in style".

He said: "It is poor in substance because it does not respect all the work that is done by our coastguards, by our police officers, by our rescue workers who are mobilised on a daily basis. 7,800 people have been saved from drowning since the start of the year thanks to their efforts."

Criticism from the French government spokesman follows barbed comments by Emmanuel Macron earlier today - Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse
Criticism from the French government spokesman follows barbed comments by Emmanuel Macron earlier today - Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse

France is now fed up with Britain "externalising problems", Mr Attal added, and asked whether Boris Johnson did not regret leaving the EU "because whenever there is a problem, he considers that Europe must handle it".

"You know why you have migrants who want to go to Britain? Firstly because you have bosses in Britain who totally use the migrant in ultra-precarious jobs so obviously that lures the migrants," he said.

"And they go to Britain because Britain enforces its laws much less than France, and sends (illegal migrants) out of the country much less than France. They should start by applying their rules, they should start by cooperating, they should start by helping us to dismantle the trafficking networks.”

10:52 AM

'My wife was on the boat. I tracked the GPS ... then it disappeared’

The husband of an Iraqi-Kurdish woman has told of his fears that she drowned in the Channel tragedy, after her GPS signal suddenly disappeared as he was tracking her across the sea.

Maryam Nuri is believed by her family to have been among 27 migrants who died when their flimsy boat capsized and sank six miles off the coast of Calais in rough seas and cold weather.

An image taken from the local lifeboat service in France shows what remains of the migrant boat that capsized in the Channel - Sky News
An image taken from the local lifeboat service in France shows what remains of the migrant boat that capsized in the Channel - Sky News

On Thursday, French lifeboatmen told how they dragged the bodies of the victims from the sea, including 17 men, seven women - one of whom was pregnant - and three children. Pictures also emerged of the crumpled boat, likened to a “paddling pool” floating in the Channel.

The husband of Mrs Nuri, who was known as Baran and came from Ranya in northern Iraq, was among those desperately waiting for news of their missing loved ones.

Her husband, a Kurdish immigrant living in the UK, tearfully told how he had been tracking his wife as she travelled across the Channel to join him, before her signal abruptly disappeared just over four hours into her journey.

Full story: Husband tells of his anguish as he fears his spouse drowned

10:37 AM

Afghan teenagers fear five of their friends are among those who died

A group of Afghan teenagers in a French camp yesterday revealed that they feared five of their friends were among those who died in the tragedy.

Hassan, 30, said a group of his friends decided to cross on Wednesday and that he has not heard from them since.

There are fears for two Afghan youngsters who have been missing since Wednesday.

On the left and centre of this photo are two Afghan youngsters, who have been missing since Wednesday - William Keo
On the left and centre of this photo are two Afghan youngsters, who have been missing since Wednesday - William Keo

10:27 AM

'Macron could solve the migrant crisis if he wanted'

It is a mystery of politics that those who claim Britain is a small, irrelevant country always insist we have a unique responsibility to solve the world’s problems, notes Nick Timothy.

Those who say we are uniquely bad – prejudiced and racist – demand that ministers allow hundreds of thousands of migrants to move and live here, presumably in misery.

The best quick fix is an agreement with France. Ministers there are frustrated with Britain: they believe our soft immigration system and open labour market draw migrants to their northern coast to make the journey here. And they are right.

But they have also knowingly fuelled the crisis. The French authorities have stood and watched as migrants have climbed aboard flimsy boats, and their navy has escorted dinghies away from French waters, leaving them for the British authorities to come to the rescue.

Yet Macron faces problems too. The EU’s Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that asylum must be sought in the first safe country a migrant enters, is not working. Unless Macron stops the boats leaving the French coastline, more migrants will keep coming to France.

Nick Timothy: A deal with France is feasible - but we need emergency action if it is not to be

10:14 AM

Macron sees red over letter as Boris Johnson told 'we are sick of double-speak'

France is continuing to deliver a scathing response to the publication of Boris Johnson's letter to Emmanuel Macron, which was posted to social media.

It has already led to the breakdown of negotiations that were scheduled to take place this weekend between Priti Patel and Gerald Darmanin, the French interior minister.

Now the spokesman for the French Government has doubled down, branding the Prime Minister's actions "unacceptable".

"We are sick of double-speak," Gabriel Attal said, claiming that a returns agreement is "clearly not what we need to solve this problem".

He said the letter "doesn't correspond at all" with the conversations between Mr Johnson and Mr Macron on Wednesday.

10:02 AM

France cancels Priti Patel's invite to migrant talks as it labels Johnson letter a 'disappointment'

France has disinvited Priti Patel from migrant talks as it labelled a letter from Boris Johnson which demanded new measures "a disappointment".

The Prime Minister had written to Emmanuel Macron last night calling for a 'returns agreement' which would see those who arrive on UK shores illegally sent back to France. He also offered joint patrols on French beaches as early as next week.

However, Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, wrote to Priti Patel to say that a meeting on Sunday will now proceed without British involvement.

In a message seen by the AFP news agency, Darmanin told Ms Patel that Mr Johnson's letter was a "disappointment".

He wrote: "Making it public made it even worse. I therefore need to cancel our meeting in Calais on Sunday."

09:43 AM

Scrap the Human Rights Act or more people will die in the Channel, warn Tory MPs

Tory MPs have called for a radical overhaul of the Human Rights Act as Whitehall insiders admitted Priti Patel’s plan to turn back boats carrying migrants would likely break existing law.

One Conservative MP said on Thursday that if the Government was “weak”, more people travelling across the Channel seeking asylum in Britain could die, while a second called for the entire piece of legislation to be scrapped.

Dominic Raab, the recently installed Justice Secretary, is planning reforms to the Human Rights Act, which incorporate into UK law the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998.

However, it remains unclear if the changes that are being sought would allow the Government to adopt hardline measures on tackling the arrival of small boats.

Scott Benton, the Tory MP for Blackpool South, who was elected in 2019, said the deadliest day of the crisis on record underlines "why we need to do everything possible to make these dangerous routes unviable", including scrapping the Human Rights Act.

Ben Riley Smith, our Political Editor, has the full story

09:26 AM

Shadow home secretary: Boris Johnson is out of control

Boris Johnson is "out of control", Labour's shadow home secretary has told Times Radio in the party's most scathing comments on the handling of the Channel crisis to date.

"It's clearly an enormous error," Nick Thomas-Symonds said. "This is a Prime Minister who is out of control. He's lost control of this situation in the English Channel and now appears to have sent a public letter on Twitter asking for greater international talks and ended up being excluded from international talks.

Is Boris Johnson out of control? That's the claim made by Labour this morning - Leon Neal/Getty Images
Is Boris Johnson out of control? That's the claim made by Labour this morning - Leon Neal/Getty Images

"And it's an error that is one of a number...the Prime Minister has failed to get that effective deal in place with the French authorities that we need."

Mr Thomas-Symonds added that, while he did not necessarily disagree with the substance of the letter, the Prime Minister was making demands about topics that "should have already been negotiated".

"Clearly the thing that was noticeable about that letter was the way that it was done in public, which now appears to be such a misjudgement."

09:15 AM

Smuggler shot migrant in the kneecaps when he refused to board boat

Smugglers shot a scared migrant in the kneecaps after he refused to board a boat on the same night 27 people died trying to cross the English Channel.

Volunteers in the Calais jungle migrant camp rushed to the aid of a 20-year-old man who was “quickly losing a lot of blood” after a smuggler became frustrated at his refusal to board the vessel and drew a gun on him.

The smuggler felt he had “lost out on easy money,” volunteers said, as the gangs are believed to only receive the full fee for transporting migrants once they have arrived in the UK. The assailant is on the run, according to French media reports.

After attending to the man, who was taken to hospital by French medics, volunteers returned to the camp to the news that 27 people - including women and children - had drowned crossing the Channel.

The first pictures emerged last night of the crumpled inflatable boat that was involved in the failed crossing.

Izzy Lyons, Bill Gardner, Rebecca Rosman and Henry Samuel have this report

09:00 AM

'Get real' on severity of Channel crisis, Tory MP urges France

France needs to "get real" about the severity of the situation in the Channel and start talking about possible solutions, a Tory backbencher has urged.

Tim Loughton, the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, told Sky that he considered the behaviour of President Macron's administration "extraordinary".

"This is a real tragedy, the amazing thing is it's not happened before and it's going to happen again," Mr Loughton said of Wednesday's tragedy in which 27 people drowned.

Abandoned boats and equipment on the beach close to Wimereux in northern France, just a few miles from Calais - Jamie Lorriman
Abandoned boats and equipment on the beach close to Wimereux in northern France, just a few miles from Calais - Jamie Lorriman

"We really need to come up with some practical solutions... The Prime Minister has come up with some practical solutions, these are things we've been trying to do for some time. And now the France cancel a meeting and don't even want to talk about it, it's extraordinary.

"The French have got to see that there are consequences for their policy of turning a blind eye, letting thousands of people come across the Channel in this really hazardous way and those consequences ended in tragedy a couple of days ago. They've got to get real about this."

08:46 AM

Publishing Macron letter was an error by Johnson, says shadow home secretary

The shadow home secertary has criticised Boris Johnson for what he sees as an "error of judgement" by choosing to make his letter to Emmanuel Macron public.

"I'm not close enough to the talks between the Prime Minister and the French President to know who's being reasonable, who's being unreasonable," Nick Thomas-Symonds said.

"But I think we can safely say that sending that public letter, that judgement from the Prime Minister that that would help has clearly proven to be in error. Here we are too after the tragic deaths of people in the Channel this week, still unable to get an effective deal with the French authorities."

Relations between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron have plummeted in recent months - Alastair Grant/AP Photo/Pool
Relations between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron have plummeted in recent months - Alastair Grant/AP Photo/Pool

Mr Thomas-Symonds called for a successor agreement to the Dublin Agreement, the European Union principle which meant migrants could be sent back to the first country that they reached. He also urged ministers to resume the Dubs scheme, which helped unaccompanied refugee children.

Critics of the Dublin Agreement argued that it did not work in practice, especially in light of the EU's Schengen area of free movement.

08:38 AM

Boris Johnson's government 'a reckless caretaker' of international relationships, says Labour

Labour has accused the Government of being a "reckless caretaker" of British ties on the world stage as it urged the Prime Minister to establish more safe routes.

Nick Thomas-Symonds claimed developments this morning signalled another diplomatic spat and that Boris Johnson's demand for joint patrols had already been rejected by France on a number of occasions.

"We have yet another diplomatic spat, yet another example from the Prime Minister of failed negotiations and not getting that effective deal with the French authorities in place that we need.

"I'm afraid this Government is a reckless caretaker of our international relationships and that's what we're seeing now unfortunately."

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour shadow home secretary, has accused Boris Johnson of another "failure" in the wake of the row with France - Eddie Mulholland
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour shadow home secretary, has accused Boris Johnson of another "failure" in the wake of the row with France - Eddie Mulholland

Asked by Sky News about what he would propose if his party were in power, Mr Thomas-Symonds called for cooperative work to stop traffickers in their tracks.

"What I have been arguing for for some time is that we make a broader offer on joint law enforcement work with the French authorities," he said.

"We need to be working to break the model of these people smuggling gangs and providing safe routes."

08:25 AM

Priti Patel snub is a major blow to France-UK cooperation

Gerald Darmanin move represents a major blow to attempts to build closer cooperation over Channel arrivals, writes Charles Hymas.

It comes amid continuing Anglo-French tensions over Brexit, fishing rights and the recent Australia-UK-US nuclear submarine pact.

Downing Street sees the pact as the best long-term solution to the escalating problem of boat crossings, as it would undercut smugglers promising a route into the UK.

In his letter to Emmanuel Macron, Mr Johnson formally offered hundreds of British personnel to stop desperate migrants from taking to the water.

France has so far fiercely resisted any move to allow British law enforcement officers to operate on its soil, claiming it would violate French sovereignty.

Full report: French minister cancels weekend talks with Priti Patel

08:17 AM

Grant Shapps: I hope France will reconsider

The Transport Secretary has called on France to "reconsider" after it disinvited Priti Patel from discussions that will take place this weekend.

Grant Shapps has said it is in everyone's best interests for Britain and France to continue to cooperate on the issue of illegal crossings.

"I think that quite simply no nation can tackle this alone and I hope that the French will reconsider," Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast.

" It’s in our interests, it’s in their interests, it’s certainly in the interests of people who have been people trafficked to the UK, people losing their lives.

"We absolutely need to work together and I think that’s the right way forward."

08:11 AM

Boris Johnson's letter is 'unacceptable', says French ministry statement

France's interior ministry has confirmed Priti Patel will no longer be welcome on Sunday as it branded Boris Johnson's letter "unacceptable".

In a statement given to French media, a spokesman for the ministry said: "We consider the British Prime Minister's public letter unacceptable and contrary to our discussions between counterparts.

"Therefore, Priti Patel is no longer invited on Sunday to the inter-ministerial meeting whose format will be: France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and European Commission."

Priti Patel will no longer be welcome at a key meeting to discuss the migrant crisis on Sunday - Jessica Taylor/AFP
Priti Patel will no longer be welcome at a key meeting to discuss the migrant crisis on Sunday - Jessica Taylor/AFP

08:00 AM

Channel crisis can only be solved with French help, says Grant Shapps

The Channel crisis can only be solved with help from France, the Transport Secretary has said.

Grant Shapps - who did not appear to be aware that Priti Patel was no longer welcome at Sunday's meeting - said the Government had made a number of offers to its French counterparts.

"The issue is originating from France... it's originating much earlier than France, of course, but they're leaving to come from the UK from France and it does mean the action is required there on the beaches," he told Sky News.

Migrants arriving at Dover Docks on Thursday after they were rescued by the British Border Force - Stuart Brock/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Migrants arriving at Dover Docks on Thursday after they were rescued by the British Border Force - Stuart Brock/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

"We can only do many of these things working with the French, and that's why we're appealing to the French to work closely, even closer, with us, it's in all our interests to get on with it.

"We absolutely have to get on top of what is a human tragedy and we can only do that with cooperation from the French."

07:52 AM

Good morning

France has disinvited Priti Patel from migrant talks as it labelled a letter from Boris Johnson which demanded new measures "a disappointment".

Here's the front page of your Daily Telegraph today.

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