Tory home secretary Priti Patel and the French interior minister discussed on Thursday how to force through a new round of repression against refugees in Calais and Dunkirk.
The meeting between Patel and Christophe Castaner came two days after a refugee’s body was found floating in the English Channel. The Iraqi man, who had tried to swim from France, is the first recorded refugee death in the Channel.
He was one of the 600 refugees trapped in northern France who are trying to come to Britain.
Castaner—part of president Emmanuel Macron's cabinet—tweeted that he was happy to receive his counterpart at the ministry. He said they would discuss "new avenues of cooperation" to combat "illegal Channel crossings". In fact no such crossing seeking asylum is illegal, nor should any human being be reduced to an "illegal" person.
After the meeting there were reports that the British government might increase its funding for French efforts to stop refugees. However, the details are unclear.
The meeting's outcome was not publicised and requests for interviews or a press conference refused.
UK Border Force (UKBF) and French police patrol vessels have intercepted a number of boats in the Channel since Thursday of last week. There were 220 refugees, including at least 40 children, on board.
The Tories are trying to manufacture another racist panic about refugees arriving in Britain.
The numbers involved are miniscule compared to the total number of refugees who have been forced to seek safety in Europe.
Around 539 people attempted to cross the Channel in 2018—while 115,000 tried to make it across the Mediterranean Sea. Many refugees from Iraq, Iran and Libya choose Britain because of family connections, others because they speak English or have had asylum claims rejected elsewhere in Europe.
There has been an increase in channel crossings in the last month, but this reflects the worsening conditions in northern France. Police repeatedly smashed up the makeshift settlements around Calais and Dunkirk, sometimes leaving refugees without tents or a pair of shoes.
Aid organisations are finding it difficult to keep up in the French state’s war of attrition.
A further wave of violence will not stop people trying to make it to Britain—it will only make the journey deadlier.
Marta Welander, executive director at Refugee Rights Europe, said, “Heightened border security has been accompanied by increased hostility by the French state towards displaced individuals in the area.
“This has taken the shape of high levels of police harassment, intimidation, violence and frequent evictions from living spaces.”
We call on the UK government to urgently provide expanded safe and legal routes to prevent future tragedies.”
The refugees trapped in Calais have fled war, dictatorship and poverty—the only solution is to open the border and let them in safely.
The hard right anti-EU Patel and the liberal pro-EU Castaner are united against that.
They are shaking hands on repression, fear and death.