France calls for an EU-wide UK migration treaty on Channel crossings | France

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France will pressure the EU to negotiate an asylum and migration treaty with the UK in a bid to deter people from making the dangerous Channel crossing.

The French government, which took the rotating presidency of the EU Council of Ministers last week, wants the whole bloc to act, despite warnings that other member states have no appetite for a migration treaty with Great Britain.

A senior French government official said the purpose of an EU-UK treaty would be to open “a legal means of immigration with Britain, so that people can legally travel to Britain to seek asylum “.

The source added that “obviously this means reciprocity,” suggesting that UK authorities could return those refused asylum to the European country in which they arrived. “We would be prepared to consider that. The idea is to have a zero balance at the end of the day.

Yet it remains unclear whether the UK would accept such proposals. During Brexit negotiations, the government was denied an asylum pact that would have allowed UK authorities to return those denied asylum to the EU, an arrangement that existed under Britain’s accession to the EU. The government, however, has long opposed people seeking asylum outside the UK, fearing it could trigger bogus claims.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told the Guardian last month that other member states had limited appetites for an asylum and migration treaty with the UK, citing the Brexit dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol. The French government source retorted that it was “a very important European issue, not just a French issue,” noting that France, Belgium and the Netherlands were “grappling with a problem. major ”as thousands of people came to their countries seeking to reach the UK.

France and Britain had a dramatic diplomatic fallout last year, after 27 people drowned in the English Channel trying to reach the UK. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, accused Boris Johnson of not being serious, after the British Prime Minister posted proposals on Twitter in time for the newspaper deadlines, before the Elysee Palace received them.

The French government maintains that the UK has lax labor market laws that attract irregular migrants. Clément Beaune, French Minister for Europe, accused the United Kingdom of “an economic model, sometimes almost modern slavery”.

For its part, the British government blames the borderless travel zone of the EU: Home Secretary Priti Patel said last year that “the real problem with illegal migratory flows is that the EU does not ‘has no border protection ”.

France received more than three times as many asylum applications as the United Kingdom in 2020, with 93,470 applications, second in the EU behind Germany, which received 121,955 applications. In the same year, 29,456 people applied for asylum in the UK

The treaty mentioned with the United Kingdom is part of a larger French program for stricter control of the free movement of people. Macron, who is expected to run for re-election this spring, wants to reform the EU passport-less Schengen zone and push forward a long-blocked asylum law governing the distribution of refugees in the bloc.

France wants greater political control of the Schengen area of ​​the 26 countries, with regular meetings of interior ministers, like the monthly meetings of the 19 finance ministers of the euro zone. “Our plan is to put more politics in the governance of Schengen,” said the government source, who said the agreement was drafted at a different time.

The Schengen area, which today covers 400 million inhabitants, was born out of a 1985 agreement between France, Germany and the Benelux countries.

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