UK minister barred from French migration meeting as row heats up

Tensions have increased between France and the UK after the British prime minister wrote on Twitter that a deal is needed for France to take back all ‘illegal migrants’

26 November 2021

Migrants crossing in small boats has created tensions (stock image for illustration) Pic: Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock

By Liv Rowland

A row is heating up between the UK and France over migrants crossing in small boats in the Channel, as an invitation to a British minister is cancelled for a meeting this weekend.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darminin has said UK Home Secretary Priti Pattel is no longer welcome at a meeting this Sunday, following an open letter by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, deemed by France to be inflammatory.

Mr Johnson said in the letter to President Emmanuel Macron published on Twitter last night that a bilateral deal is needed “to allow all illegal migrants who cross the Channel to be returned”.

FranceInfo reports today that a source close to the Interior Minister said: “We consider that the British prime minister’s open letter was unacceptable and contrary to our discussions between peers.

“As a consequence Pritti Patel is no longer being invited to the meeting between ministers on Sunday.”

Invitations remain open to ministers from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the officials from the European Commission.

In the letter Mr Johnson had welcomed the meeting, adding he is willing to “upgrade this meeting to a leaders’-level summit or arrange further bilateral discussion with you or your colleagues”.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on BFMTV Mr Johnson’s letter was “lacking in its substance and totally misplaced in the way it was expressed”.

It comes after at least 27 people died in the Channel on Wednesday, trying to cross to the UK.

Read more: France will not allow the Channel to become a cemetery

Under international law on refugees individuals may use any means available to travel to a country to claim asylum and there is no rule obliging refugees to claim asylum in the first ‘safe’ country they reach. It is not possible to claim asylum outside the UK or to obtain a UK visa for purposes of seeking it.

While in the EU, the UK belonged to the EU’s Dublin regulation which allows the possibility of asylum seekers being returned to the first EU country they entered under certain circumstances.

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