In view of the many arrivals of boat migrants in northern and southern Europe, both Great Britain and four Mediterranean countries want to take tougher action against illegal immigrants. While Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus called for EU measures against civilian sea rescuers in a joint declaration, according to media reports, London is about to sign a contract with France. This is intended to prevent illegal crossings across the English Channel.
According to official information, more than 40,000 people have crossed the straits illegally this year, a record since records began in 2018. This means that significantly more migrants came to the island illegally in 2022 than in 2021 as a whole.
The conservative government wants to deter the migrants with radical measures. For example, people who have entered the country illegally are to be flown out to Rwanda in East Africa - regardless of their asylum status.
The agreement with France should ensure that the numbers drop significantly. According to media reports, it provides for significantly more French border guards to be deployed in the English Channel. London pays tens of millions of euros to Paris for this.
Secretary of State: ""Hotel Britain" must end"
British Secretary of State for Immigration Robert Jenrick claimed in an op-ed piece for the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that Britain offers migrants too many incentives and accused them of "asylum shopping". "'Hotel Britain' must end," Jenrick wrote, calling for simpler accommodation for people: "Illegal immigrants are not entitled to luxury hotels."
Recently, the conditions in Manston, southeast England, had made headlines. Up to 4,000 migrants were accommodated in the reception camp designed for 1,600 people. There have been several cases of diphtheria, and new arrivals are now being vaccinated.
According to British information, almost a third of those who entered the country illegally came from Albania. Criminal Albanian gangs in France are responsible for this, according to London sources. Numerous Albanians demonstrated against discrimination in the British capital on Saturday.
The bone of contention in the Mediterranean is currently the work of civilian sea rescuers who are on the lookout for refugees in need. In a joint statement, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have now criticized the fact that their ships "act completely independently of the responsible state authorities". "We reiterate our position that the modus operandi of these private ships is not in accordance with the spirit of the international legal framework for search and rescue operations, which should be respected."
Italy's ultra-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni recently announced "new measures" against NGO ships. "Each state must actually exercise its jurisdiction and control over the ships flying its flag," the four countries demand. Brussels should take "necessary steps" to ensure that there is a discussion about the future of such operations, it said.
Civilian organizations - including those from Germany - have been deployed in the central Mediterranean for years. Recently, the "Ocean Viking" of the organization SOS Méditerranée with 234 migrants on board was turned away from Italy and sent on to France. Paris allowed the ship to enter Toulon, but was outraged.
A diplomatic dispute developed between Paris and Rome. "Italy respects neither international law nor shipping law," French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told the newspaper Le Parisien (Sunday). The ship was only recorded as an exception. "There will be consequences if Italy sticks to this view."
Paris suspended a solidarity agreement under which Mediterranean migrants would be taken over by Italy and stepped up its controls at the Italian-French border.