France tells the UK to stop ‘giving lessons’ on migrants

After Britain described the record numbers of migrants crossing the Channel as 'unacceptable', France has bitten back. The row over migrants threatens to further escalate tensions between the two countries.

Migrants crossing the Channel close to Dunkirk, northern France. Britain has accused France of not doing enough to prevent such crossings.
Migrants crossing the Channel close to Dunkirk, northern France. Britain has accused France of not doing enough to prevent such crossings. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

France told Britain on Monday to stop “giving lessons” on migrants in an increasingly acrimonious row between London and Paris over the numbers crossing the Channel.

“Britain is in no position to be giving lessons to us,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told Cnews television ahead of talks with his British counterpart Priti Patel later on Monday.

Britain “should stop using us as a punch-bag in their domestic politics,” he added.

The longstanding dispute has intensified in the last days after record numbers of migrants crossed the Channel to reach England from the French coast, with London accusing Paris of not doing enough to stop them.

READ MORE ‘The maximum’: What France is doing to prevent migrant crossings to UK

The tensions have added to a litany of post-Brexit strains between Britain and France that also include a dispute over fishing rights that has threatened to spill over into a full-blown trade war.

In an unusually blunt criticism of France’s neighbour, Darmanin implied it was the fault of the British government that so many migrants wanted to cross the Channel.

He accused British activists based in northern France around Calais and Dunkirk of impeding the work of the security forces.

“I will remind my British counterpart that the NGOs that prevent the police and the gendarmerie from working are largely British NGOs with British citizens who are on French soil,” he said.

And he added: “The smugglers, who organise networks and exploit women and children, are very often based in Britain.”

He also argued that migrants were encouraged to leave for Britain because its labour market relied in part on “irregular workers employed at low cost”.

“If the British changed their legislation very strongly – and they did, but not enough – people would no longer be in Calais or Dunkirk” waiting for a chance to cross the Channel, he said.

“We are the victims of British politics. We must not get this mixed up,” he said.

According to British figures, a total of 1,185 migrants crossed the Channel on Thursday — a new record that smashed the previous daily high of 853 — due to cold but calm weather.

On Friday, three people who tried to cross in a canoe were reported missing. Britain has described the figures as “unacceptable.”

Member comments

  1. Why don’t the Brits just build a wall to protect their borders from illegal immigration like the U.S. has done in some places and at times has even made moves to extend. Seems to me, normally mesures are taken for those entering and not for those leaving a country.

  2. These problems just serve to show how close the UK is to France and how difficult it is to preserve borders that are mostly in the mind. Migration is a major, worldwide problem and no one country can solve that on its own. Canada, for example, was very critical of Europe’s handling of illegal migrants and pushing them back. Until suddenly thousands of South Americans crossed their borders from the US and the authorities were confronted by the same problems as Europe faced earlier. In the US the media were critical of the callous policies introduced by Trump until in the first weeks of the Biden administration tens of thousands of hopefuls crossed the boundary and overflowed all the facilities.
    Countries in the Middle East and Africa should be held accountable for their own population, and made to provide better circumstances for the young. Which means the West should not earn billions selling them arms or our financial havens helping corrupt leaders stow away their stolen billions.
    A spat between the UK and its neighbours is not going to help. It’s all puppetry aimed at their own media, and the UK looking for a scapegoat to avoid the public’s close look at the success of government.

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French government aims to block ‘burkinis’ in swimming pools

France's interior minister said on Tuesday that he would seek to overturn a rule change in the city of Grenoble that would allow women to wear burkinis in state-run swimming pools.

French government aims to block 'burkinis' in swimming pools

The all-in-one swimsuit, used by some Muslim women to cover their bodies and hair while bathing, is a controversial issue in France where critics see it as a symbol of creeping Islamisation.

The Alpine city of Grenoble changed its swimming pool rules on Monday to allow all types of bathing suits, not just traditional swimming costumes for women and trunks for men which were mandated before.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin called the change an “unacceptable provocation” that was “contrary to our values”, adding that he had asked for a legal challenge to the new regulations.

Under a new law to counter “Islamist separatism” passed by parliament last year, the government can challenge decisions it suspects of undermining France’s strict secular traditions that are meant to separate religions from the state.

Attempts by several local mayors in the south of France to ban the burkini on Mediterranean beaches in the summer of 2016 kicked off the first firestorm around the bathing suit.

The restrictions were eventually overturned for being discriminatory.

Grenoble’s mayor Eric Piolle, one of the country’s highest profile Green politicians who leads a broad left-wing coalition locally, has championed the city’s move as a victory.

“All we want is for women and men to be able to dress how they want,” Piolle told broadcaster RMC on Monday.

The head of the EELV party, Julien Bayou, argued that the decision had nothing to do with secularism laws, which oblige state officials to be neutral in religious matters but guarantee the rights of citizens to practice their faith freely.

Burkinis are not banned in French state-run pools on religious grounds, but for hygiene reasons, while swimmers are not under any legal obligation to hide their religion while bathing.

“I want Muslim women to be able to practice their religion, or change it, or not believe, and I would like them to be able to go swimming,” he added. “I want them also to suffer less demands to dress in one way or another.”

Grenoble is not the first French city to change its rules.

The northwestern city of Rennes quietly updated its pool code in 2019 to allow burkinis and other types of swimwear.