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The Channel

Only France can defuse the migrant crisis

Rescued migrants arriving in Dungeness, Kent, on Wednesday. Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps it was too much to hope that the deaths of 27 people in the Channel would change the tone of the migrant debate. Instead, says The Times in an editorial, this “sadly unsurprising tragedy” has only sharpened the cross-Channel war of words. Boris Johnson says France must do more to crack down on “sophisticated, highly lucrative” people-smuggling gangs, and more robustly police its beaches. Emmanuel Macron says Britain isn’t doing enough to address the “pull factors”, including the large “black economy”, that encourage migrants to risk the dangerous crossing.

If nothing else, says Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian, this must surely spell an end to Home Secretary Priti Patel’s talk of forcibly “pushing back” boats as they enter British waters. The only way this tragedy could have been more awful is if British border guards had been “tipping people into the sea themselves”. Migrants are painted as a threat to Britain, but in death we can see them for who they are: victims of crackpot foreign regimes and traffickers exploiting their desperation. In the “immediate haunting aftermath” of tragedy, we should nurture our “pangs of conscience”. Nobody would do this if they had a better option. “We have to find a way to give them one.”

Ultimately, the Channel crisis cannot be solved, says John Lichfield in UnHerd. It can only be managed. “And like it or not, it can only be managed with the help of France.” The migrants in Calais only started to overcome their fear of the sea in 2018 “because they had to”. Other ways of reaching England – stowed in the back of a lorry, say – had been closed off, mostly by “the diligence of the French”. There are solutions: France could try harder to block beaches and Britain could process asylum requests on the French side of the Channel. Whatever happens, the current situation – “relying on France while insulting the French” – isn’t helping anyone.

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