Calais mayor says Boris Johnson needs to ‘calm down’ over migrant crossings, as 70% of Britons back deploying navy

Natacha Bouchart says prime minister’s pronouncements amount to ‘provocation’

Adam Forrest
Friday 14 August 2020 09:57 BST
Minister Nick Gibb says boats could be used to block Channel migrants

The mayor of Calais has said Boris Johnson must “calm down” over migrants crossing the English Channel in boats – urging the prime minister to change the UK government’s strategy and rhetoric.

Natacha Bouchart, leader of the French coastal town from which many migrants have departed, condemned the UK government’s proposal to enlist the Royal Navy to stop boats reaching Britain.

“I say clearly, that it’s a declaration of maritime war since it is out of the question for naval ships to enter [French] territorial waters,” she told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

“I consider Boris Johnson’s pronouncements to be a provocation,” she added. “Therefore I appeal to Boris Johnson, saying you urgently need to calm down, and urgently need to change your methods of … dealing with migrants.”

It comes as a new YouGov poll found that 71 per cent of British adults backed the idea of the Royal Navy patrolling the English Channel to stop migrant crossings.

The same survey also showed that 69 per cent of adults supported the RAF working with the Border Force in the Channel.

RAF search and rescue surveillance aircraft have been used in recent days, but the Royal Navy has yet to deploy vessels to the English Channel despite a request for assistance from home secretary Priti Patel.

The Calais mayor has echoed calls from refugee rights campaign groups in the UK in calling for Mr Johnson’s government to focus on creating safer, legal routes for asylum seekers.

Ms Bouchart said the French government should not “give in” to British requests for stronger border enforcement measures on the coast of France. “It’s only by standing firm that you achieve something.”

Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart
Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart (Getty Images)

Earlier this week UK immigration minister Chris Philp said French officials had agreed to work on “joint operational plan” to make the English Channel “unviable” to migrants – but also said he could not discuss any “operational” details.

Ms Patel and her French counterpart Gérald Darmanin last month signed an agreement to establish a joint intelligence unit to tackle migrant traffickers.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “All capabilities provided have been in response to requests made by the Border Force. Defence continues to work with the Home Office to provide appropriate support, as needed.”

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