Politics

‘Tensions rising’: How French media reported on Priti Patel’s migrant boat plan


French media has highlighted rising tensions between France and the UK as it reported on Priti Patel’s new plan to push migrant boats back across the Channel.

Both countries have become embroiled in a war of words over efforts to tackle migrants crossing the Channel by boat.

France has “strongly rejected” the latest tactic reportedly sanctioned by Ms Patel, which would redirect migrant boats in the Channel back to France, according to Le Monde.

The leading national newspaper called migrant crossings a “subject that sours relations between Paris and London” and said the French interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, had “upped the ante” with a tweet on the matter on Thursday.

“France won’t accept any practice against maritime law, nor any financial blackmail,” Mr Darmanin wrote, adding that the friendship between France and UK “deserves better than stances that hurt co-operation between our departments”.

Ms Patel told her French counterpart this week the British public “expect to see results” from French efforts to prevent ongoing migrant crossings.

She is also to have told MPs she is prepared to withhold millions of pounds of cash promised to France to help step up patrols unless an improvement in the number of migrants intercepted by French authorities is seen

Le Figaro, another major, right-leaning French newspaper, said the UK has accused France of not sufficiently preventing migrant crossings for years.

“London wants to put the breaks on illegal immigration. Gerald Darmanin warns of a ‘practice against maritime law,’ the newspaper said in a report on the UK’s plans to push boats back across the Channel.

“Tensions between France and the UK rise while Channel crossings increase,” France Info, a radio network, reported.

In a round-up on European news, the outlet said the UK was “infuriated” by the number of migrants coming from France.

Sud-Ouest, a regional newspaper, said things were “heating up” between London and Paris, following the French response to Ms Patel’s plans to push back boats.

Meanwhile Le Parisien reported that the UK wanted to make French authorities “responsible” for migrants in the Channel, wherever they are found.

According to reports, Ms Patel has ordered officials to rewrite maritime laws to allow Border Force to turn boats around, forcing them to be dealt with by French authorities.

Several newspapers reported that members of Border Force are being given special training to handle migrant boats, but would only deploy the “pushback” tactics when deemed practical and safe to do so.

Reports suggested such operations were likely to be restricted to sturdier, bigger migrant boats and only used in “very limited circumstances”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on maritime operational activity.”

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