French President Emmanuel Macron has blamed Britain for every migrant who drowns in the English Channel and accused UK politicians of hypocrisy.

Macron, who is about to launch his campaign for re-election, said he will ‘step up’ the pressure on Boris Johnson to establish a legal route to Britain for asylum seekers.

He accused the Prime Minister of putting lives in danger because of his migration policy, with record numbers making the perilous journey across the Channel in dinghies. 

‘The responsibility for those who die at sea does not fall upon France but upon this British refusal,’ Macron told French newspaper La Voix du Nord.

Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Emmanuel Macron (left), who is about to launch his campaign for re-election, said he will ‘step up’ the pressure on Boris Johnson (right) to establish a legal route to Britain for asylum seekers.

More than 200 migrants reached the UK in seven boats on January 26 as Border Force agents arrived into dover after picking up those who had crossed the Channel

More than 200 migrants reached the UK in seven boats on January 26 as Border Force agents arrived into dover after picking up those who had crossed the Channel

More than 200 migrants reached the UK in seven boats on January 26 as Border Force agents arrived into dover after picking up those who had crossed the Channel

The French president said current rules encourage illegal migration and do not allow for asylum seekers to seek lawful ways into the country, pushing migrants to attempt the treacherous crossing instead. 

‘The British continue to have a system from the 1980s, which manages economic immigration through hypocrisy. There is no legal immigration route,’ the French leader said. 

He added: ‘The British must articulate their needs in terms of the economy and reopen a path to legal asylum requests. We are going to step up the pressure.’

The row between France and Britain has rumbled on since the tragic sinking of a dinghy in November last year which led to the deaths of 27 migrants, with both countries placing the blame on the other.

After their deaths, Mr Johnson called on Mr Macron to take back those who had entered Britain illegally, with the British leader saying this would stop migrants from risking their lives crossing the Channel. 

But Macron refused and is now pushing for a new agreement between the EU and the UK.

This is a picture of the flimsy and dangerous dinghy that sank off Calais in November last year, killing 27 people including seven women - one of whom was pregnant - and three children

This is a picture of the flimsy and dangerous dinghy that sank off Calais in November last year, killing 27 people including seven women - one of whom was pregnant - and three children

This is a picture of the flimsy and dangerous dinghy that sank off Calais in November last year, killing 27 people including seven women – one of whom was pregnant – and three children

Under President Macron’s proposal some migrants would be sent back to France after crossing. But in return British must allow an equal number of asylum seekers in.

It comes as it emerged that six times as many migrants crossed the Channel by boat in January compared with the same period last year.  

UK authorities intercepted or rescued 1,341 people, making the perilous journey in 46 boats.

That compares to 223 in 15 boats last year and just 87 in eight boats during the first month of 2020. 

The busiest day last month saw 271 migrants arrive in Dover, Kent which was more than in the entirety of January last year.

Three migrants died in Northern France attempting to reach the UK so far this year and ‘it’s likely that there have been at least two more’, according to charity Care4Calais.

A spokesman for the charity which supports refugees in Europe and the UK tweeted: ‘All this so early in the year brings home the dangers refugees face, and the appalling fact that our government will not act to stop it.

UK authorities intercepted or rescued 1,341 people making journey in 46 boats this month

UK authorities intercepted or rescued 1,341 people making journey in 46 boats this month

UK authorities intercepted or rescued 1,341 people making journey in 46 boats this month

‘To caring people, these tragedies are unbearable; young men who have fled persecution, torture and death dying alone so far from their homes.

‘The atrocious spectacle could be ended by the introduction of a system allowing refugees in France to claim asylum in the UK and and receive safe passage.’  

The latest figures come amid reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given Home Secretary Priti Patel the go-ahead to develop new powers which would see every male migrant who crosses the Channel detained in a bid to contain the crisis.

According to Ms Patel, seven in ten people who make the perilous crossing to the UK are single men under 40.

She is working closely with Attorney-General Suella Braverman to establish what new powers would be needed to be approved by MPs in order to change the laws on detention.

The government is due to make an announcement next month as part of wider plans for the Royal Navy to take control of Channel crossings.

The busiest day last month saw 271 migrants arrive in Dover, Kent which was more than in the entirety of January 2021

The busiest day last month saw 271 migrants arrive in Dover, Kent which was more than in the entirety of January 2021

The busiest day last month saw 271 migrants arrive in Dover, Kent which was more than in the entirety of January 2021

The sinking of a boat in November last year which resulted in the death of 27 people prompted emergency talks between London and Paris as they sought to hammer out an agreement to stop the crossings. 

Only two people of the 29 aboard the vessel on November 24 survived in what is believed to be the greatest loss of life from a single migrant crossing on the Channel. The youngest victim was just seven years old.

The deaths furthered the diplomatic row between Britain and France amid the record numbers of migrant crossings. 

Macron last month addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg as France took over the presidency of the EU. He said the EU required a government in London that acts in ‘good faith’ and live up to agreements with the bloc.     

He said: ‘Ultimately we cannot solve this problem if the way in which migratory flows as seen from the British side doesn’t change.

‘Our British friends at the moment are trying to adopt an approach which is the one that prevailed at the start the 1980s is where you’ve got a level of acceptable economic illegal migration, you allow people to work without papers because it’s helpful the economy, but that is doesn’t take on board the reality of migratory flows now.

‘Secondly, there need to be legal, stable routes to be able to migrate to the UK and this is a situation that we’re confronted with. This is a dialogue that we need to pursue with the UK. It’s a horrendous humanitarian situation but that’s the reality.’ 

There have been no successful crossings since 39 people made the treacherous trip in one boat last Wednesday – with continuing bad weather set to scupper any attempts over the next few days.

A total of 28,381 migrants made the perilous journey across the Dover Strait in flimsy boats last year – dwarfing the 8,410 who arrived in 2020.

But Home Office officials have warned that this year could see more than 65,000 people arrive in the UK by small boat.

Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration, Tom Pursglove MP, said: ‘People fleeing persecution should seek safety in the first safe country they reach and not risk their lives paying criminal gangs to cross the Channel.

‘This Government is reforming our approach to illegal entry to the UK and asylum by making the tough decisions to end the overt exploitation of our laws and its impact on UK taxpayers.

‘The public have rightly had enough of the blatant disregard of our immigration laws and we are bringing in necessary long-term*changes.

‘The Nationality and Borders Bill will make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally and introduce life sentences for those who facilitate illegal entry into the country.’

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