The UK and France have had a fractured relationship for some time, and the migrant crisis has exacerbated the problem. More people than ever are fleeing the conflict and poverty of the Middle East (including Afghanistan, Sudan, and Iraq). It’s a journey that requires them to trek through France and cross the dangerous stretch through the English Channel, in the hopes of finding better opportunities in the UK.
The number of people attempting this journey has increased tenfold in the past several years — from 300 in 2018 to 23,000 in 2021.
Responses from the two countries
Both the UK and France are attempting to find a solution that stops migrants from dying while trying to flee. Earlier this year, France rejected an idea presented by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that suggested British security agents patrol the coast of the channel to prevent small refugee boats from setting sail.
French President Emmanuel Macron said that the country couldn’t accept British forces on their soil, even for humanitarian reasons, calling it a question of “sovereignty.”
In November, the countries experienced the deadliest migrant accident in the English Channel in history, which saw 27 people die as their ship sank. This latest development has only put the countries further at odds.
While it may seem like France is refusing to budge in the name of improving the crisis, Britain is also increasingly showing that they have no plans to compromise. Following the November accident, France urged Britain to open a legal migration route to prevent the problem from worsening. Macron suggested at the end of November that British immigration officials could begin processing asylum requests from migrants in northern France who are camped at the major ports waiting for their moment to flee.
So far, Britain has refused.
At a crossroads?
The tension between the two counties is rising as the migrant situation gets worse. Both Macron and Johnson have publicly taken hits at each other, and neither country appears to be able to set aside their deeply held ideals to come to a solution.
It’s difficult to say which country is at fault due to the lack of cooperation from both sides, but France is certainly doing little to help the situation.