PARIS — French officers lashed out at Britain on Friday over a letter from Prime Minister Boris Johnson advising France to take again migrants who attain British shores, escalating a diplomatic spat simply days after 27 people died trying to cross the English Channel.
The French denounced Mr. Johnson’s assertion in blunt phrases, calling it unacceptable, and disinvited Britain’s residence secretary, Priti Patel, from an important assembly on the migrant disaster on Sunday.
The dispute, within the speedy aftermath of one of many deadliest disasters ever within the English Channel, underscored the diplomatic hurdles the 2 international locations face in addressing the issue, as lingering rigidity over Brexit and disagreements on points together with commerce and fishing rights proceed to roil their relationship.
In a letter despatched to President Emmanuel Macron of France on Thursday evening, Mr. Johnson wrote that France and Britain ought to “put in place a bilateral readmissions settlement to permit all unlawful migrants who cross the Channel to be returned,” suggesting that if France took again migrants it will be a serious step towards fixing the issue.
The letter prompted a fierce response from Gabriel Attal, a French authorities spokesman, who mentioned the letter was “each poor in content material and utterly inappropriate in its type.”
“Sufficient with the doublespeak, sufficient with the fixed externalization of issues,” Mr. Attal, visibly irritated, told BFMTV on Friday morning. “It makes you surprise if Boris Johnson doesn’t remorse having left Europe, as a result of each time he has an issue, he thinks that Europe ought to deal with it.”
Gérald Darmanin, France’s inside minister, shortly introduced that Ms. Patel was not invited to an emergency assembly that France will maintain in Calais on Sunday with ministers in control of immigration from neighboring international locations like Belgium and Germany.
Mr. Macron mentioned on Friday that the disaster required “severe” cooperation — however that Mr. Johnson’s letter was not a severe effort.
“You don’t talk from one chief to a different on these points by tweets and by letters that you just make public, we aren’t whistleblowers, come on,” Mr. Macron said at a news conference in Rome, the place he was on an official go to.
On Wednesday, about 30 migrants crammed onto a flimsy inflatable vessel had been shipwrecked within the English Channel’s frigid waters, and most of them — males, ladies and kids — drowned. French prosecutors have opened an investigation to find out the precise circumstances of the catastrophe, and the identities and nationalities of many of the victims haven’t been confirmed.
The variety of migrants setting off into the sea has soared in current months as a result of France has cracked down on different routes to England, particularly by ferry or by truck and prepare by the tunnel beneath the Channel. To date this yr, there have been 47,000 makes an attempt to cross the Channel, and seven,800 migrants had been saved from shipwrecks, in keeping with French officers.
On Twitter, the place he additionally published the full letter to Mr. Macron, Mr. Johnson wrote that “an settlement with France to take again migrants who cross the Channel by this harmful route would have a right away and vital influence.”
“If those that attain this nation had been swiftly returned, the motivation for individuals to place their lives within the arms of traffickers can be considerably decreased,” Mr. Johnson mentioned. He known as it “the one largest step” the 2 international locations might take to handle the problem.
In his letter, Mr. Johnson famous that international locations like Russia and Belarus have already got readmission agreements with the European Union and that any bilateral settlement between France and Britain can be short-term, pending a broader deal between the E.U. and Britain.
He additionally outlined different proposals, together with higher intelligence sharing, joint police patrols on French shores — which France has already rejected — and reciprocal maritime patrols in every nation’s territorial waters.
However French officers reacted furiously on Friday morning to the suggestion that France ought to take again migrants, calling the concept a nonstarter and accusing Mr. Johnson of utilizing the migration disaster for domestic political ends.
Mr. Darmanin, in a letter despatched to Ms. Patel and that was seen by the Agence-France Presse, mentioned he was “disenchanted” by the calls for made in Mr. Johnson’s letter and located it “even worse” that he had made them public.
Mr. Attal, the French authorities spokesman, instructed BFMTV that the publicly shared letter “didn’t match, in any respect, the exchanges that Boris Johnson had with the President over the telephone as just lately as Wednesday night.”
Mr. Attal added that the suggestion France ought to take again migrants who attain British shores “is clearly not what we have to repair the issue.” As a substitute, he mentioned, Britain ought to ship its personal immigration officers to France, the place they might study the claims of asylum seekers making an attempt to achieve British shores.
Grant Shapps, the British Transport secretary, defended Mr. Johnson’s letter, telling the BBC that “buddies and neighbors” needed to work collectively and that he hoped France would rethink disinviting Ms. Patel.
“It’s in our pursuits,” he mentioned. “It’s of their pursuits. It’s actually within the pursuits of people who find themselves being people-trafficked to the U.Ok, with these tragic scenes we’re seeing.”