According to the mayor of Calais, it was a tragedy “that saw everyone coming”: at least 27 migrants were killed yesterday after their boat capsized on the Channel between France and England. “I had been afraid of this for years,” she told French media.
She was apprehended and at the same time agitated that illegal human trafficking across the Channel is not adequately counteracted. On the contrary: in recent months, the number of illegal crossings has increased sharply. Just yesterday, 25 boats with groups of migrants departed from Calais.
This is quite exceptional: normally, sea migration decreases in winter, due to the worse weather conditions. The temperature of the water in the Canal falls below 10 degrees Celsius by the end of the year.
French people are angry and moved by the drowning at Calais:
The fact that this is happening now is a question of supply and demand, says Jorrit Rijpma, Professor of European Law and migration expert at Leiden University. “The migration has largely shifted from hiding in trucks to boats, and the human smuggling industry is facilitating that.”
The crossing by train or car via the Channel Tunnel has been made virtually impossible, says France correspondent Frank Renout. “Nowadays, there are high fences everywhere and there is strict control of the trucks. The boat is therefore the only possibility to cross.”
Brexit also plays an important role, says Rijpma. “Previously, the British were part of the Customs Union and were able to invoke the so-called Dublin rules. They determined that refugees had to apply for asylum in the country where they entered the EU. This allowed the UK to send asylum seekers back to that country in question.” That‘s much more difficult now.
In principle, it is only possible to apply for asylum within the national borders of the UK. “So you have to get to the British island anyway.” And that’s what people will continue to try, with potentially more fatal boating accidents.
result of the accident, French President Macron says he wanted to prevent the Channel from becoming a cemetery. He calls for an urgent consultation of all the European ministers involved and wants surveillance at EU external borders to be stepped up.
In the meantime, fingerpointing about the debt question has begun. According to the Mayor of Calais, British Prime Minister Johnson is responsible for the deaths of 27 migrants, because “he dare not take responsibility” in the field of effective migration policy. British ministers are calling on France to do more against human smuggling.
The influx of migrants has long been a hot hanging iron in British politics, says correspondent Fleur Launspach. “One of Brexit‘s promises was to take back control on the border, but that doesn’t seem to work out. In addition, many voters believe that the British Government is doing too little to prevent migration.”
Many migrants are determined and want to go to the UK anyway. Like these people, who also left the French coast yesterday:
The British Coast Guard practiced pushing migrant boats back to the French coast last month. If the so-called ‘pushbacks’ become standing policy, migrants can simply no longer apply for asylum. There are also plans to reform the asylum system, hoping to discourage migration.
On the French side, control of illegal migration through the Channel has stepped up in recent months, says France correspondent Renout. A detective team has also been set up together with the British to roll up smuggling gangs. “Yet there is the idea of the French doing too little among the British,” says VK correspondent Launspach.
Professor Rijpma has doubts whether all the measures mentioned will allow boat migration to dry up. “The UK is the holy grail for many refugees and migrants, for example because of family and the English language. They will try to get into the country counterclockwise or clockwise.”
In addition, the UK has no longer had a national identity card since 2011 and the flexible UK labour market has few restrictive rules to get to work and there is a shortage of labour. This allows migrants to work relatively easily.
There is therefore no simple solution, emphasizes Rijpma. European cooperation is especially important, but it has become less because of Brexit. “France should prevent the boats from leaving, and the British have to do something about that. The question is to what extent the EU and France are open to that.”
In word, both Macron and Johnson seem to be committing to that. Both call for more cooperation. “Together, we must prevent mobsters from getting away with murders of migrants,” said Johnson.