UK urges ‘coordinated’ international response after migrant tragedy

Britain on Thursday demanded a “coordinated international effort” across Europe to deter people-smuggling after at least 27 migrants drowned as they tried to reach England.

“Yesterday was the moment that many of us have feared for many years,” Interior Minister Priti Patel told MPs, restating an offer to send British police and border officers to France after she held telephone talks with French counterpart Gerald Darmanin.

The home secretary also refused to rule out turning migrant boats back across the Channel, under new legislation currently progressing through parliament.

But, she said, while the new immigration bill would help tackle the crisis, “we cannot do it alone”. 

“This is a complicated issue and there is no simple fix. It does mean a Herculean effort and it will be impossible without close cooperation between all international partners and agencies,” Patel said.

“This requires a coordinated international effort, and I’ve been in constant contact with my counterparts from France, Poland, Austria, Belgium, Italy and Greece to name just a few because of the nature of the crisis, and the fact that we are seeing 80 million displaced people in the world.” 

After Wednesday’s tragedy, France called for urgent talks among ministers from the European Union, but continent-wide cooperation on migration has been disrupted by Brexit. 

Downing Street said that, regardless of the UK’s exit from the EU, it stood ready to pursue all avenues of cooperation on the crisis and stressed that asylum-seekers should lodge their claims in safe destinations such as France.

“We obviously want to work with our European partners, recognising this is a problem that doesn’t just affect the UK, to ensure that people who do need to seek asylum can do so in safe countries,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.