The mayor of Calais, France, has accused Britain of a “declaration of maritime war” over its proposed move to send in the Royal Navy to curb the waves of illegal immigration into the U.K. from France across the English Channel.
"It is a declaration of maritime war," Mayor Natacha Bouchart said, according to The Daily Telegraph, before accusing the British of "contenting themselves with giving lessons and by subjecting Calasians to this situation for too long."
“We in Calais no longer want to be permanent hostages enduring the lectures of British leaders,” she said.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has reportedly proposed sending in the Royal Navy to stem the hundreds of migrants who have crossed the English Channel from northern France in small boats.
On Wednesday, Britain started returning to France and Germany migrants who had been identified as having already claimed asylum in one of those countries.
While the 14 sent back are only a small portion of the 650 migrants who have tried to reach British shores this month, a government source told the Times of London it was “the tip of the iceberg.”
The government has requested military assistance and the Royal Air Force has been patrolling the channel with a new plane designed for anti-submarine warfare, The Associated Press reported.
The British and French governments have been in talks to stop the crisis, and British Immigration Minister Chris Philp on Tuesday said that the governments had “reaffirmed our unshakeable shared commitment” to make sure the route across the channel was “unviable.”
“We have worked on a joint operational plan, a revised and new operational plan, with the objective in mind of completely cutting this route and we’re going to be working at pace in the coming days to make that plan a reality,” he said.
Philp noted that Britain would no longer be bound by E.U. asylum restrictions such as the Dublin Regulation when it leaves the bloc at the end of the year.
Patel, a hardliner on illegal immigration, has reportedly hinted at a tougher approach to France.
The Times reports that Patel told MPs that Britain would not give France money it has requested to patrol beaches until it agreed to take back more migrants who had crossed the channel.
Opposition Labour Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds accused the government of lacking “compassion and competence.
“We must not militarise a humanitarian crisis,” he said.
The Times reported that Priti told MPs she is working on a “fair borders” bill to stop people drawing out the asylum process, and that she said the system was being “exploited by leftie Labour-supporting lawyers who are sending us legal letters every day to try to stop us removing people from this country.”
She reportedly predicted that her plan would “send the left into meltdown."