It was supposed to be a fresh start, the first Anglo-French summit after a five-year break, but for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak it was above all an opportunity to show results on the fight against migration and send a clear signal: London wants Paris more in the next three years transfer more than half a billion euros for the fight against illegal migration, against gangs of people smugglers and so-called "small boats". This more than doubles the annual payments.
At a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace, Sunak seemingly casually mentioned a joint British-French detention center in northern France. It remains unclear what that means exactly. Sunak probably intends to detain migrants in France and send them back directly to their countries of origin or safe third countries. The British press release spoke of removing migrants "from the French coast".
We stop the boats, "we stop the boats," Sunak promised earlier this year. After he announced a draconian asylum law revision in London on Wednesday, which is intended to deter migrants from crossing the English Channel, he followed suit in Paris. Anyone who enters the UK illegally should no longer be able to apply for asylum in the UK.
London will immediately deport migrants to their countries of origin or safe third countries. The right to asylum could possibly be examined in an internment camp on French soil. It remained completely unclear on Friday whether such a camp is legally possible and what the consequences of the project would be on other EU borders.
Although Macron's relationship with Sunak seems more relaxed than that with his predecessors - Sunak referred to Macron as "mon ami" - this time the accusation was made that Paris was not doing enough to prevent migrants from making the life-threatening crossing. But anyone who visits Calais feels transported to the German-German border in the northern French port city long before the fall of the Berlin Wall: Kilometers of fences, walls and barbed wire keep migrants away from the port facility and the entrance to the Eurotunnel.
It is more difficult to monitor the 120km of Côte d'Opale coastline between Dunkirk and the Belgian border, where the distance to the British coast is sometimes as little as 34km. In addition to the construction of a detention center, the 541 million euros will also finance a new command center, 500 additional border guards, drones and surveillance technology.
French President Macron only mentioned the migration issue at the end of the joint press conference. France is doing "efficient work", stressed Macron. More than 1,300 boats were prevented from crossing the English Channel last year alone. Thanks to the cooperation of the British and French secret services, 55 smuggling gangs have been broken up. Shortly before, Sunak had calculated that 46,000 people made the crossing last year.
Paris had previously refused to take back migrants who had illegally entered Great Britain from France because this contradicted the rules of European migration policy. Macron said France cannot negotiate an agreement with Britain alone, that is an EU matter.
After Brexit, Great Britain can no longer apply the Dublin regulation that applies in the EU, according to which migrants can be sent back to another EU country if they have already stopped there on their flight. Channeling migration must be tackled jointly by all European countries.
This should include transit countries as well as countries from which the smugglers who organized the crossing of migrants in rubber boats across the English Channel operated, according to Macron. Sunak also acknowledged that illegal migration is not a Franco-British phenomenon, but one that affects everyone.
The problem has existed on the French English Channel coast for decades. At the end of 2015, Macron's predecessor François Hollande decided to close the so-called "jungle", the illegal migrant camp in Calais. Thousands of migrants were then distributed to reception centers across the country. Since then, migrants have been hiding in forests or behind dunes. Their makeshift shelters and tents are regularly destroyed or confiscated by French police officers.
But the migrants stay because their only wish is to cross over to Britain. The announcement of the new migration law will probably not discourage them either. The French human rights organization "France terre d'asile" sharply criticized the joint announcements: "Under the cloak of a 'partnership' we are witnessing the gradual externalization of the UK's migration policy to France," said a spokesman for the French NGO.