“Rishi Sunak wants to get more from France on coastal protection”

interview Three days before a meeting between Emmanuel Macron and Rishi Sunak, the British government introduced a bill aimed at preventing people arriving across the Channel from seeking asylum. For former diplomat François-Joseph Chechen, these illegal crossings illustrate the loss of control over migration flows.

Ronan Blanchon

published to update

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on March 7. Pool / Reuters

François-Joseph Chechen is a former diplomat and consultant on geopolitics and European affairs at the advisory firm Flint Global.

the Figaro. The Independent: — The British government introduced the Anti-Illegal Immigration Bill on Tuesday, March 7, which plans to prevent channel arrivals from seeking asylum in the UK. With over 45,000 people coming through this route last year, was it inevitable?

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Francois Joseph Chechen. – Government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak under pressure. The situation in the English Channel has spiraled out of control with a sharp increase in illegal crossings in recent years, adding to the rest of the immigration figures which have risen sharply in recent years with more than a million legal entries in 2021 and 2022. The issue of illegal crossings has become for the channel This is a symbol of losing control. This situation is in stark contrast to the promise of Brexit to control borders and migration flows. It is therefore necessary to find solutions, but none of the previous Conservative governments have succeeded in doing so.

The response given by the British government is strong. It consists of denying migrants any access to asylum if they enter the UK illegally – except in very specific cases such as minors or seriously ill persons. Those crossing the Channel illegally will be detained in the UK pending transfer to their country of origin or to Rwanda, with which the UK has an agreement to detain illegal immigrants, pending transfer to Rwanda for the examination of their asylum claim. It is only for deterrence illegal immigrants and networks of smugglers to attempt the dangerous crossing of the English Channel.

Should we see a reversal of Rishi Sunak, who is known for his liberalism, on the issue of immigration?

It should not be forgotten that Rishi Sunak campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum. He knows that the issue of immigration was at the heart of the Brexit vote. This shows once again that Brexit has made it possible to take back control of Britain’s borders. The Conservative Party’s credibility is at stake. The bill goes in that direction.

If migrants with the help of smugglers’ networks can reach the French coasts to try to cross into England, it is first because the Schengen area is a sieve.

Francois Joseph Chechen

at the political level, Rishi Sunak Puts his parliamentary majority against the wall. Many Conservative MPs are protesting against measures that are considered excessive, but the only ones capable of curbing the situation in the canal. Will these deputies risk putting the prime minister in trouble a year before the legislative elections? I suspect.

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Also read – United Kingdom: The number of pending asylum applications is at an all-time high

Even Labor leader Keir Starmer is calling for action on illegal immigration – he also knows voters in the North Supporter of Britain leaving the European Union Concerned about this issue. If he wants to win back these voters after the terrible failure of the 2019 elections, he must therefore change his positions, even if his own party criticizes him. The issue of immigration will be central during the campaign for the 2024 legislative elections.

What are the consequences of this law for immigration to France?

It is a bill that could have a positive effect on some migration flows towards France, insofar as it makes the UK less attractive. We must not forget that even if the famous “Jungle of Calais” had been dismantled 20 years ago, the immigrants had in fact spread all over the French coast of the Channel and increased in number. We note again, in recent years, a significant increase in Concentration of illegal immigrants in Calais. So the problem wasn’t really solved, it was mitigated. Thus, the British bill will help reduce pressure. However, in the short term, we can expect a spike in arrivals arriving in England before the new law takes effect.

Thus, British and European justice will play a major role in the government’s ability to carry out the measures envisaged.

Francois Joseph Chechen

In the medium and long term, this law will not solve the underlying problem even if applied properly – which remains to be seen because the challenges are enormous, for example in safe accommodation. If immigrants with assistance smuggling networks They managed to get to the French coast to try to cross into England, this is, first of all, because the Schengen area is a real sieve. As long as the borders of the Schengen area are not strengthened to effectively repel illegal immigrants, we can expect the pressure to remain strong on the French coasts.

The UK passed a law last year to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, but the project was stopped by European justice and remains stalled. Do we expect this scenario to repeat itself?

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Indeed, the new British bill will be the subject of fierce opposition in Parliament and before the courts – British and European – as it was in the case of the British Parliament agreement with Rwanda. The government is aware of this. He has also himself admitted that the compatibility of the law with some of the UK’s legal obligations is not guaranteed and that it is up to the courts to decide. Thus, British and European justice will play a major role in the government’s ability to carry out the measures envisaged.

The fight against smugglers has made great progress in recent years, thanks in large part to the French and British police. It must be strengthened.

Francois Joseph Chechen

However, opponents of the bill who believe it contradicts international law and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) are playing with fire. The level of public concern about immigration has decreased since Brexit, but that decline has come to a halt in 2022 with the release of staggering immigration figures. Britons, especially those who voted for Brexit, understand that the promise of an appeal Border security not held. This is a fundamental question for the Conservative Party and its voters. Voices are already being voiced within the government and the conservative majority to leave the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

The law comes as Rishi Sunak is expected to arrive in Paris on Friday to meet French President Emmanuel Macron. A few months ago, our two countries signed an agreement of co-operation, providing in particular for financial assistance from the British to monitor the French shores and to send British observers to the French side …

The topic will be at the center of the agenda of discussions between Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron during the Franco-British Summit. Rishi Sunak wants more from France in coastal protectionBut it is unlikely that Emmanuel Macron will agree to do more. The fact that the UK is paying France to provide border control is nothing new – tens of millions of euros have already been paid. This situation is sometimes seen as humiliating for our country, and it is pushed to ensure control of its borders. However, the French position can be understood: if immigrants pile up on its shores, it is because the British immigration model is seen as more favorable. So the UK must either assume and accept the arrival of these illegal immigrants, or reduce the elements that make it attractive.

The only permanent solution is close cooperation and efforts on both sides. fight smugglers It has made great progress in recent years and this is to the credit of the French and British police. It must be strengthened. Both countries should also reduce incentives for illegal immigration, particularly through social protection systems. Finally, France must play an active role within the EU to strengthen the borders of the Schengen area and give Frontex the means and mandate to effectively combat illegal immigration. For the UK, France and the EU, the challenge is the same: to take back control of our borders.

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