French Europe Minister Clément Beaune on Monday accused the U.K. of “an economic model of, sometimes, quasi-modern slavery” amid the ongoing migrant crisis in the English Channel.
Also on Monday morning, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin called on the U.K. to “change its legislation” on migration in order to solve the crisis, which daily has seen hundreds of people in small boats taking the dangerous sea route from Calais to reach England.
Darmanin said the question of cross-Channel migration was “first and foremost an English issue” in an interview with BFMTV: “We need the U.K. to open the door to a legal path for immigration to their country.”
“I’m not to take any decision for the British people, but we need to discuss it with the English,” he said.
Migrants are choosing to take a risky path “because there is no legal path for immigrants to go to the U.K. … and because it’s possible to work without an ID card in England,” the minister added. “One of the engines of the English economic policy — not all of it, obviously — is to employ workers illegally,” he said.
“We’re asking the British to change their framework,” Beaune said at the same time on France Inter. “There is — let’s say it — an economic model of, sometimes, quasi-modern slavery or at least of illegal work that is very strong.” Exploitation of illegal workers “is more prevalent in the U.K. than [in France], because there are less checks,” Beaune said.
“If the British are not going back to a certain number of checks, on more humane, more compliant labor market regulation, this attraction will remain,” Beaune added.
Tensions around migration between France and the U.K. have heightened after a small boat sank last Wednesday, resulting in the death of 27 people. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday published an open letter on Twitter calling on French President Emmanuel Macron to strike a deal with the U.K. “to allow all illegal migrants who cross the Channel to be returned.”
Following Johnson’s letter, U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel was uninvited from a meeting between European ministers on Sunday. “I am surprised by the methods when they are not serious,” Macron said on Friday.
“When you have exchanges and are able to advance on serious topics together, and that you realize some moments later that a letter — that no one had mentioned before — is published on Twitter … before the president of the Republic has received it, it’s a bit peculiar,” Darmanin said.
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