French police cleared a major migrant camp on Tuesday that was home to around a thousand people hoping to reach Britain, amid tensions between London and Paris over Channel crossings.
A record number of migrants crossed the Channel in small boats last Thursday — 1,185 according to British figures — which the British government described as “unacceptable”.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin spoke to his British counterpart Priti Patel on Monday, but only after giving a blunt interview in which he said Britain should “should stop using us as a punch-ball in their domestic politics”.
On Tuesday morning, Darmanin announced that “on his orders” police had cleared a camp in Grande-Synthe, near the port of Dunkirk, which is one of the main departure points for Britain.
“Thanks to the police who were in action as well as our security personnel in the north who are finding shelters,” Darmanin added.
French police regularly clear camps around Calais and Dunkirk, offering migrants there the opportunity to lodge an asylum request in France and move to a shelter, which many refuse because they prefer to continue their journeys to Britain.
An aide to Darmanin denied to AFP that the operation was linked to the conversation with Patel, saying the clearance was “scheduled for this date” before the phone call took place.
Relations between France and Britain are at their lowest point in decades due to a host of disagreements on issues ranging from migrants to fishing in the Channel, as well as a submarine contract with Australia.