Boris Johnson offered to work “faster and faster” with France and the EU to try to stop undocumented immigrants crossing the English Channel after dozens drowned in an attempt to reach the UK.
In a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron, published Thursday night, the British prime minister urged greater cooperation with Paris and Brussels on the return of migrants making the sea voyage to England.
“The EU has readmission agreements with countries like Belarus and the Russian Federation; I hope that such an agreement can also be reached quickly with the UK, ”Johnson wrote, in a letter also copied to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.
Pending such an agreement, Johnson asked Macron to reach a bilateral readmission agreement “to allow all illegal immigrants who cross the Canal to be returned.”
He argued that “this would have an immediate effect and would significantly reduce, if not stop, crossings, saving lives by fundamentally breaking the business model of criminal gangs.”
Post-Brexit UK border plans aim to return migrants to the first deemed safe country they enter en route to the UK, as well as establish overseas processing centers for asylum seekers. However, those plans are based on finding international partners willing to accept returnees and have struggled for support.
Johnson, who is under mounting internal pressure to reduce migrant travel to Britain, also repeated his call for joint UK-French patrols “to prevent more ships from leaving French beaches,” and suggested the prospect of a cooperative narrower intelligence and technology.
France on Thursday invited Belgian, German, Dutch and British ministers, as well as representatives of the European Commission, to a meeting on Sunday in the Calais Canal port to discuss the issue.