France Secures EU Help on People Smuggling After Channel Deaths
(Bloomberg) -- France agreed with European allies to take fresh steps to clamp down on illegal people smuggling in the Channel days after 27 migrants died as they tried to reach the U.K. in wintry conditions.
French interior minister Gerald Darmanin met Sunday afternoon with his German, Dutch and Belgian counterparts in Calais, as well as officials from the European Commission. He said they’d agreed that monitoring flights by aircraft from the European Union’s border force would start on Dec. 1.
The Nov. 24 tragedy triggered a blame game between the French and British governments over responsibility for the deaths. France withdrew an invitation to U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel to attend the Calais meeting, while Darmanin has said laxer British controls on workers’ identities help make the country a magnet for migrants.
“We have gathered a group of countries that have a common destiny which is called Europe,” Darmanin told reporters after the meeting. While he said France wouldn’t be “held hostage” by the U.K. over the migrant issue, he said its government would like to see better cooperation with “our British friends.”
The U.K. and France are at a sensitive time in their post-Brexit relationship, which has been strained by tensions on a range of issues from defense to the granting of fishing licenses.
Australia’s decision in September to ditch a submarine contract with France in favor of an agreement with the U.S. and the U.K. served to increase tensions.
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