The “global migration crisis” is an urgent issue for the whole of Europe and requires close cooperation across the continent, the British government said on Friday.
A spokesman for 10 Downing Street said the government is working “extremely closely” with the French authorities to prevent migrants from crossing the Channel.
“Our work to date has prevented more than 20,000 migrant attempts so far this year but we have been clear that we need to do more, both ourselves and the French, which is why we continue to work extremely closely with them,” he said.
“We are facing a global migration crisis choreographed by organised crime groups who put people on these boats to make these incredibly dangerous crossings. This is an urgent issue for the whole of Europe requiring incredibly close working together with our neighbours—France, Belgium, and the Netherlands—as well as our friends across the continent. It is a shared problem, so we need shared solutions.”
In July, the UK and France announced an agreement on tackling the problem, under which the UK would pay France £54 million ($75 million) to more than double the number of police patrolling French beaches.
Despite government promises to stem the flow of small boats, however, the numbers this year have continued to eclipse those of previous years, leading to sometimes heated exchanges of words between British and French officials.
In an interview with French newspaper la Voix du Nord, President Emmanuel Macron said the British “oscillate between partnership and provocation” when discussing the migrant crisis. “We need to further strengthen collaboration,” he emphasised.
French officials say violence levelled at French police has intensified recently, highlighting incidents where an officer had their ear bitten off, and another where canisters of CS gas had to be used to disperse a group of migrants.
Kevin Saunders, former chief immigration officer for the UK Border Force, said on Saturday that the Channel migrants must be processed offshore to enable officials to turn away failed asylum claims.
“That is the only way you will stop people from coming into the UK,” He told Times Radio. “We’ve seen trying to do it with the French on land, on the Channel, nothing works.”
He said the UK is “very attractive” to migrants and “people know they’re not going to be removed” once they arrive.
“How many was it that we removed this year, was it five? Some 30,000 arrived and we removed five—not very good really, is it? They know that once they’re in the UK they’ve won the jackpot.”
Meanwhile, the Albanian ambassador to Britain denied reports his country has been in discussions with the UK government about hosting a processing centre for migrants who arrive in the UK.
Qirjako Qirko told LBC radio that there had been “zero talks” between the two countries on the issue.
He said Albania has been “crystal clear” that the country “will never be a processing centre for illegal immigrants.”
PA contributed to this report.