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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

British charities in Calais hindering French efforts to stop Channel migrants, claims minister

However, in an unusually blunt criticism of the UK on French TV, Mr Darmanin implied it was the fault of the British Government that so many migrants wanted to cross the Channel.

“Britain is in no position to be giving lessons to us,” he said. “I will remind my British counterpart that the NGOs that prevent the police and the gendarmerie from working are largely British NGOs with British citizens who are on French soil. 

“The smugglers, who organise networks and exploit women and children, are very often based in Britain.”

There have been protests by activists in Calais, and a recent hunger strike by two campaigners and a priest forced police to suspend migrant evictions, although British charities say the protests are primarily by French activists.

But Clare Moseley, the founder of Care4Calais, rejected the claims, saying her charity existed “solely to deliver humanitarian aid”.

“We always work within the law and we never have, and never will, obstruct the police in any way,” she said.

Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the French claims were “far-fetched”, adding: “They are small charities who only have volunteers helping with basic needs like clothing. To insinuate they are helping people to get across the Channel is nonsense.”

Gunes Kalkan, the head of campaigns at Safe Passage International, said: “These political games put lives at risk, which is why we’re urging the Government to act now and open safe routes for refugees to reach sanctuary and family in the UK.”

Mr Darmanin also argued that migrants were encouraged to leave for Britain because its labour market relied in part on “irregular workers employed at low cost”.

Mr Darmanin said that “if the British changed their legislation very strongly – and they did, but not enough – people would no longer be in Calais or Dunkirk” waiting for a chance to cross the Channel.

“We are the victims of British politics. We must not get this mixed up,” he said.

The total of 1,185 migrants who crossed the Channel on Thursday smashed the previous daily high of 853 as smugglers exploited cold but calm weather. Hundreds more are expected early this week due to calmer seas.

Britain has described the figures as “unacceptable”. On Friday, three people who tried to cross in a canoe were reported missing.

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