Despite their being no appetite within the EU to have the discussion, France will push for a EU-wide migration treaty to deal with the Channel crossings that have caused so much discord between it and the UK. France is keen for the EU to negotiate an asylum and migration treaty will they hope, deter people from making the dangerous Channel crossing.
France, who recently took up the six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council of Ministers, believes that the issue is an EU-wide one that requires the bloc to act as one.
Speaking about their desire for a treaty with the UK, a senior French government official said: “the purpose of an EU-UK treaty would be to open up a legal means of immigration with Great Britain, so people can legally go to Great Britain to seek asylum.”
They added that “obviously that means reciprocity”, suggesting something the UK is keen on, which is allowing British authorities to send back denied asylum seekers to the European country in which they had arrived. “We would be prepared to consider this. The idea is to have a zero balance at the end of the day.”
Although the UK is keen to return asylum seekers, it is not clear whether they would agree to a formal treaty with the EU. Such an agreement was turned down by the EU as part of the Brexit negotiations, plus the UK is not keen on Allowing people to apply from abroad as they fear an influx of bogus applications.
The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, citing the issues with the Northern Ireland protocol that member states had limited appetite for an asylum and migration treaty with the UK. The French government however believe it is an important European question, not just a French question. The French source noted that France, Belgium and the Netherlands were “struggling with a major problem” as thousands of people came to their countries seeking to reach the UK.
France received more than three times as many applications for asylum as the UK in 2020, with 93,470 claims, second in the EU only to Germany, which received 121,955 applications. In the same year 29,456 people applied for asylum in the UK
There is another agenda to the push for the treaty, France want to see the reform of the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone and to make progress on a long-stalled asylum law governing how to distribute refugees around the bloc.
The source said: “Our plan is to put more politics into the governance of Schengen,” reflecting that the agreement had been drawn up in a different era.
The Schengen area, which now covers 400 million people, grew out of a 1985 accord between France, Germany and the Benelux countries.
The fallout between the UK and France is well documented with accusations flying in both directions. Whether they will be able to agree on a migration treaty to deal with channel crossings remains to be seen.
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