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Monday, November 29, 2021

France Cancels UK Invitation to Migration Crisis Talks Following Johnson’s Letter

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France has withdrawn an invitation to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to join talks on the migration crisis following a public letter from Prime Minister Boris Johnson to President Macron.

“Priti Patel is no longer invited to Sunday’s inter-ministerial meeting to be held with France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the European Commission,” a senior French official said on Friday.

The official described the letter as “unacceptable and contrary to our discussions.”

The UK and France have been struggling to coordinate their response to the death of 27 migrants on Wednesday, who drowned while trying to cross the English Channel from France.

The letter called for reciprocal French and British maritime patrols in each other’s territorial waters and that the thousands of migrants arriving on English shores be returned to France.

Johnson wrote Thursday night: “If those arriving in this country were quickly returned, the incentive for people to put their lives in the hands of traffickers would be significantly reduced.”

French officials have complained that the British government blames Macron, including for problems associated with Brexit, for domestic political reasons. UK officials, in turn, say Macron is being difficult because he will campaign for re-election in April and is coming under fire from his French nationalist opponents.

The official said on Friday that Paris opposed both the content of Johnson’s letter and the fact that the British made it public.

After Wednesday’s tragedy, the Elysee Palace said Macron had told Johnson that the UK and France shared responsibility for the migrant problem and that he “hoped the British would cooperate fully and refrain from exploiting a tragedy. for political purposes “.

There was no immediate response on Friday morning from the UK Home Office to the withdrawal of the invitation. But Johnson’s suggestion that the two countries sign a bilateral agreement to return to France asylum seekers arriving in the UK, which Johnson in a Twitter thread late Thursday called the “biggest step” that the two countries could take to deter clandestine crossings, he was right. a very delicate subject for the French part.

France has persistently rejected the UK’s efforts to negotiate bilateral return agreements, insisting that the process should be managed through an agreement between the UK and the European Union.

An agreement is needed to address the problems created by the withdrawal of the United Kingdom on December 31 last year from the Dublin conventions, an agreement between European states that allows asylum seekers to return to safe countries they have passed through on their way to request asylum elsewhere. The conventions also provide for reunions of families stranded in separate countries.

On Thursday morning, UK Immigration Minister Kevin Foster told the BBC that the UK had offered bilateral deals with individual countries during Brexit negotiations and a deal with the union as a whole, but had been rejected.

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