The migrant crisis in Chanel: We must put an end to democracy by Jean-Maurice Ripert

The 27 killed in the Channel on 24 November while trying to rally the United Kingdom offended European conscience and called for a speedy resolution of the issue of controlling cross-Channel migrant flows. It is in the interest of London and Paris, despite each other boasting. Before turning the English Channel into a graveyard, Europe must act now. Analysis of this painful topic about three questions.

Has Brussels measured the migrant crisis in the Channel?

Yes, if only because this new crisis is further widening the European divide in terms of migration. This has been linked to rising pressures of migration from Asia and the Middle East, and tensions in Poland and Hungary. This undermines European unity and consequently undermines the primacy of European law in the face of temptations to “renationalise” migration policies.

The European Union is founded on respect for common values ​​that are incompatible with those of migrant ships, be it the Channel or the Mediterranean. According to Amnesty International France, 340 people have disappeared in the Channel since 1999, including 27 dead on 24 November. So Brussels had to respond and began doing so by specifically commissioning Frontex.

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The European Commission’s Greek vice-president in charge of home affairs, Margaritis Shinas, was very clear on 27 November – from the island of Chos, one of the gateways for illegal immigrants from Turkey, quite a symbol – emphasizing that after the United Nations Since the Kingdom had left the European Union, “it now had to decide how to organize the management of its border controls”.

One of the difficulties of the current crisis is that the 2013 “Dublin Regulation” provides for the return of illegal immigrants to their first host country in Europe. In theory, therefore, France could neither deport them to the United Kingdom nor investigate their possible asylum requests. This question will undoubtedly be raised, among others, at the European Union’s “Council of Justice and Home Affairs” next 9 December.

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France and the United Kingdom are giving up: are these two countries showing this kind of democracy?

In the context of a significant increase in the number of international migrants – 281 million in 2020 according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – France, in the midst of an election campaign, and the United Kingdom, are in economic difficulties after Brexit, when migrants are welcome. They are attacking approximation and bad faith (according to the IOM, 13.12% of the French population is of foreign origin, 13.1% of the British population).

When Boris Johnson asked President Macron – in his letter sent via Twitter on 25 November – to “take back” migrants who arrived illegally from France to the United Kingdom and to this end a reciprocal bilateral When proposing to sign a reading agreement, he displays total mass communication. He knows that the flow is almost one-way and that he will have very few migrants to “carry back”.

In addition, the British Prime Minister’s pro-Brexit campaign was built on London’s reintroduction of its laws and control of its borders. His denial of responsibility on France alone is in open contradiction with this promise. As does their stated intention to reform the legal system in the United Kingdom friendly to legally admitted migrants, that certainly makes for a breath of fresh air. But London needs unskilled labor and has supported the opening of European markets to people from Central and Eastern Europe…

As in the case of fishing licenses granted to French fishermen, for Johnson it is a question of making a diversion from the disappointing results of Brexit. The British are not realizing the declared beneficial effects, especially in the context of a COVID-19 crisis that has hit them hard. No longer able to attack “Brussels”, Johnson is now demonstrating to Paris, “betting on popular support for”French bashing“Come out of the closet.

For its part, France accused the United Kingdom of not cooperating loyally in the fight against smugglers and of not paying all the money promised. But in 2003 she agreed to sign the Touquet Agreements, which established border controls on French soil in exchange for financial compensation. And he didn’t question them. Any condemnation by Paris would in any case be effective only two years after its notification and, above all, the United Kingdom would freely consider all illegal immigrants collected from their country to return to France. No government since 2003 wants to risk this growth. Especially since police and judicial cooperation between the two countries is essential in the fight against terrorism and serious crime.

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France is taking the risk by excluding the British government from European consultations, betting on the “Europeanisation” of its management of the crisis, so that Brussels can replace it in talks with London. Beyond in-principle support for the French position, some of our partners face migrant crises on their own borders and do not intend to transfer responsibility to Brussels or Frontex, preferring to deploy “walls”, unlike European regulations Huh. On the eve of a French presidency of the Union, he may have been tempted to return the community ball … to France.

Why is Frontex so rarely used in Poland and the Channel?

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency – the EU’s first uniformed service – has been mandated since 2016 to help member states fight illegal immigration on the Union’s external borders, in order to guarantee freedom of movement within it. Therefore its preferred intervention areas are the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, as most migrants entering Europe come from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Cross-channel migrants want to leave Europe for the UK, which is no longer part of it, not to enter. The matter is seriously complicated by this. That is why Frontex is entrusted not just with border control but with the fight against smugglers, during a meeting organized by France in Calais on 28 November, in the presence of the German, Belgian and Dutch interior ministers, the European Commissioner for the Home. For affairs and director of Frontex and Europol (EU agency responsible for combating crime). The 24/7 availability of a surveillance aircraft should enable the consortium to “strengthen its operational cooperation” and “improve joint cooperation with the United Kingdom”.

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In the case of Poland compared to Belarus, it is a question of the “pushing” of migrants towards Europe by Minsk and countries of origin (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan) with the complexity of transit countries (such as Turkey). ) The answer is political and the EU has succeeded in convincing the countries in question to stop sending migrants.

Furthermore, Poland, refusing to work with Frontex, decided to build a wall on its borders, which it is also asking for finances from the Union, which would not happen. No wonder Frontex has difficulty deploying its systems in these situations.

How can all this develop? Undoubtedly in the sense of resuming cross-channel cooperation. France achieved its first trade surplus in the world with the United Kingdom and this country is our third foreign investor. He is also our alter ego on the international scene. We need to continue a credible dialogue and structured cooperation with London.

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The way out of the crisis therefore clearly lies in Euro-British negotiations that lead to a legal system of supervision and control of cross-channel migrant flows. It remains to be seen whether it will manage to find its place – and when – in all the post-Brexit disputes under discussion between Brussels and London (fishing, migrants, the Northern Ireland border). Meanwhile, fears are being raised that the channel will still cause many victims.


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Christoph Donner, author of Reflections on the Christoph Donner

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Robin Riveton, essayist, member of the Scientific and Evaluation Council of the Foundation for Political Innovation (Fondapol).Robin Riveton

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