DUNKIRK, France (AP) — France’s interior minister on Saturday urged Britain to fulfill its promises to provide tens of millions of pounds (dollars) to help France stop migrants from trying to cross the English Channel.
Visiting the northern port of Dunkirk, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin noted that “migratory pressure is returning after COVID,” and said France has sharply increased efforts recently to stop it.
French maritime authorities are now stopping 75% of migrant boats seeking to cross the Channel, he said, but could reach 100% if Britain provides the 54 million pounds ($74 million) promised at a meeting with his British counterpart in July. The money is meant to help fund a doubling of the number of police patrolling French beaches.
“For now, not one euro has been paid,” he told reporters. “We are asking the British to keep their promises of financing because we are holding the border for them.”
British Home Secretary Priti Patel has suggested she could withhold the money if France does not do more to stop the people-smuggling boats from departing.
Migrants from around the world have long used northern France as a launching point to reach Britain, either by stowing away in trucks or in dinghies and other small boats organized by smugglers. The British and French governments have worked for years to stop the journeys, without much success.
Thousands have made the crossing this year. One man died last month trying to cross, according to French maritime authorities, and in the past two days, French authorities have rescued 130 migrants whose boats were in distress.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch released a report this week decrying treatment of migrants in the Calais area by French police, citing “daily harassment and humiliation.”
Darmanin also called on Britain to take measures to reduce its “attractiveness” for migrants without residency papers, without elaborating.
“We are speaking of human beings. There are children, babies who are taking these boats, who are risking their lives. There are people who die in the Channel. I don’t what them to be hostage to political debates,” he said.
Darmanin also urged more coordination with other European Union countries to stem unofficial migration. Half of migrants trying to cross from France to Britain came into France from Belgium, he said.
French authorities arrested 120 migrant traffickers and detained 4,000 people trying to cross the Belgium-France border in September, double the previous figures, he said.
Follow all AP stories on global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration.