France working with UK on Calais migrant crisis - President
Thirty-fourth Franco-British summit/bilateral relations/migration/Syria/Libya – Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at his joint press conference with Mr David Cameron, British Prime Minister (excerpts)
Amiens, 3 March 2016
THE PRESIDENT – Prime Minister, cher David Cameron, first of all I’d like to thank our teams who worked to organize this meeting, the 34th Franco-British summit, and thank all the regional, departmental and local authorities, and particularly Amiens city hall, which has allowed us to be here today.
Past and present conflicts
This 34th summit also coincides with a centenary, and that’s why we met at Pozières Cemetery, where you yourself went at the age of 16 to visit those places of remembrance of one of the fiercest battles, the Battle of the Somme, with its many victims who, sadly, lie in these cemeteries today.
Let me remind you that the Commonwealth paid a heavy price, a heavy sacrifice, to ensure our country could be defended and freedom protected. Once again, I want to pay tribute to the memory of those fallen soldiers.
So we have a responsibility – the United Kingdom and France – to continue upholding the spirit of peace and ensure, wherever we can act, that we combine our efforts, particularly at the Security Council – because our two countries are permanent members – so that we can resolve the bloody conflicts which are raging in some parts of the world and, above all, creating flows of refugees, and we know here what that can mean.
So, throughout these hours of work, with the foreign, defence and home affairs ministers, we wanted to show that France and the UK share the same goals and use the same methods.
That’s true for Syria, where we’re seeking to ensure the ceasefire is honoured and ensuring this period can be used to provide essential humanitarian aid to martyred towns – I’m thinking in particular of Aleppo – as well as ensuring this period of calm can provide an opportunity for the discussions and negotiations that must resume in Geneva.
We’re putting pressure on all the players to ensure that there’s no resumption of the bombing and that there can then be genuine negotiation – i.e. that the opposition can play a full role in it and a transition can finally be embarked on.
We also want to put pressure on all the protagonists in this conflict, and also on Russia to ensure it properly understands that we need its participation but that we must also require it to understand that there’s an opposition which isn’t confused with Daesh [so-called ISIL] and that our enemy is Daesh, and terrorism is Daesh.
We’re also telling the Turks that they too have a responsibility and must be sure to understand that agreement is in the interest of the region’s stability.
We mentioned Libya because we know Daesh has taken up positions; there too we’re working together to ensure that a government can finally be established and that there can be an appeal for international solidarity, an appeal to which both the UK and France will respond.
Finally, we want to prevent there being more refugees. We’ll have a discussion, it will be on Monday at the European Council, and we shared the same objectives on this too. I’ll have the opportunity to talk about it to Angela Merkel as early as tomorrow. In parallel, I’ll be having a discussion with David Cameron, Angela Merkel and President Putin about Syria. But we have to resolve the refugee issue and ensure those refugees can be taken in humanely, as near as possible to their countries of origin. That’s why we must help Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. We’re ready to do so. Funds have been released, Europe only yesterday expressed its willingness and also the financial commitments it’s decided to agree to; that’s necessary.
But we must also do everything possible to ensure there’s no dangerous transportation for those refugees. Hence NATO’s role, and it happens that there, too, we can act together. This also concerns Turkey and Greece. Greece must also be helped as far as it’s concerned, i.e. with the hot spot centres. We ourselves must – once those hot spot centres are operational and can allow for readmissions but also relocations – play our part.
We’ll have to debate all those subjects on Monday, but you already have an idea of what Europe must do. It must show solidarity, it must be effective and it must be united. I know what the United Kingdom is preparing for the coming months. We had the opportunity, for two days and a night, to discuss this together, with David Cameron – when I say “together”, it wasn’t just the two of us – but we found ways, procedures, enabling the British people to decide in good conscience what their future must be.
I expressed it on France’s behalf: I’d like the United Kingdom to be in Europe. It’s in the UK’s interest, it’s in Europe’s interest, but it’s the people who always decide in full sovereignty.
We must also act in relation to this issue of refugees, and I’ll come back to it in particular regarding Calais.
The town of Calais – and, more broadly, the whole region – is suffering. I’m also thinking of Dunkirk and Grande-Synthe. So we must ensure that those refugees who want to go to the United Kingdom, even though the United Kingdom can’t or won’t accept them – and I remind you that the UK isn’t in the Schengen Area – we must therefore make those refugees understand that they can ask for their rights and ensure they are accommodated in France if those rights can be recognized. But in the meantime, very great difficulty has been experienced for months, both by the local authorities and the population.
The interior ministers have worked a great deal, and today – I’ll come back to this, no doubt, in the questions that are asked – there are fewer migrants and refugees in Calais than a few weeks ago. We’re ensuring that those who remain there can be humanely accommodated, but it’s also been possible, finally to make things watertight so as to prevent trafficking. There have also been exemplary results when it comes to combating trafficking, but there’s also the very important issue for us of unaccompanied minors, and we’re ensuring we can address it: we discussed it together, so that those minors with families in the UK can be taken in to the UK.
Financial efforts must also be agreed, but David Cameron will talk about them.
Finally, we had some very important discussions between the defence ministers, because the UK and France are united by a treaty, the Lancaster House treaty of 2010, and on the basis of that treaty there’s been a lot of progress and shared determination, reflected in programmes which have led, for example in April, to there being a Franco-British force that will be able to carry out a number of humanitarian actions or intervention actions. It’s a very fine result of what we’re capable of doing together.
On the level of what are called capabilities, i.e. the defence industry, there’s also increasingly intensive cooperation, and indeed, as you know, France and the UK are two countries which have a deterrent, and we’re working together to ensure we can reduce its cost and improve its performance.
Finally, there’s everything regarding the future of our economies, particularly following the Climate Conference. I also thank David Cameron, because he participated very well at every level: the G7, the G20 and the European Union. The UK was more than an ally, it was a partner in the success of that conference. So we must act accordingly in terms of renewable energy, but also in terms of nuclear energy and modernization: that’s the so-called Hinkley Point project. I remind you that France supports that project, which is very important for both the UK and France.
That’s the spirit driving us. We want to work together; we’re two neighbouring countries, even though the UK will always remain an island, despite what we’ve done with Eurotunnel; we’re two neighbouring countries, we’re two friendly countries; we recalled history, including the Entente Cordiale. I confirm here that the entente is still cordiale and even amicale [friendly]. Thank you.
Q. – Those campaigning for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union say that with Calais you’re trying to frighten people, and that France is simply acting to ensure the UK remains in the EU. Do you agree with your Economy Minister, who says the border would be different?
THE PRESIDENT – France doesn’t intend to put pressure on the British people to dictate its choices. I’m not sure it would be doing a service to David Cameron or all those who want the UK to remain in the EU if France exerted that type of pressure. I too have experienced a referendum. I think it’s first of all up to Britons to decide on their future. But nor do I want to deny the consequences which the decision to leave the EU would have for the UK: consequences for the single market, for the movement of products, for the relations that may affect people. Beyond what the British people will have to say, my responsibility is to work with the British government to ensure we can find the best solutions for dealing with the issue of refugees, particularly those in Calais and Dunkirk, and more broadly because it’s a European issue. I’m also thinking of those who are currently in Athens, those who are travelling, I’m thinking of those who are in Syria and Turkey and plan to go further. That’s what we have to resolve. It’s a huge responsibility, a political responsibility, because what’s in question here isn’t merely one country’s presence in the EU, it’s Europe itself that is in danger.
Q. – What solutions exactly did you find on the case of unaccompanied minors? Why did you take so long to find this solution? Does the £17 million package seem to you sufficient? What are you going to do about it for Calais?
THE PRESIDENT – (…) What is France’s responsibility to those people in Calais? It’s to tell those eligible for asylum that everything has been prepared to take them in, not only in Calais but throughout France: it’s a commitment I made in September . The Interior Minister made centres available to those people and ensured that, for those eligible for asylum, the formalities could be facilitated. Once the documents can be given out, the people can be put where they’ll be warm, accommodated under good conditions, and can even hope to be integrated into our country. That’s the duty we had to fulfil.
There are also people who don’t want to stay in France, and there are others who can’t stay in France because they aren’t eligible for asylum. They must then be, as it’s called, readmitted to their countries of origin.
For those people who absolutely want to go to the UK, if the UK has decided not to accept them, bearing in mind that the UK has been acting differently to take in refugees, particularly through resettlement policies for people who may be eligible for asylum – without going to fetch them from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon –, if there’s no possibility [for them] to go to the UK, the border, i.e. the access routes, are closed. The message we must send – because it’s a message of truth, and it’s also a message of humanity and dignity – is that coming to Calais means being certain of not being able to cross the Channel and of having no solution. However, solutions exist everywhere in France for those people.
There’s still the issue which has been raised of unaccompanied minors. We have follow-up for those people, those young people, but we’ve been clear to the British Prime Minister: when those people, those unaccompanied young people, those unaccompanied minors have family ties to the UK, those young people must go to the UK, quickly and efficiently. We’re working to ensure there can be accurate identification; the two interior ministers are doing this, and what we agreed here this morning was that this should be done even more quickly and efficiently.
Q. – You seem to be saying that the bilateral agreement between the UK and France, which is keeping people in Calais, must remain in place. Does that mean you disagree with your Economy Minister? (…)
THE PRESIDENT – I don’t wish to frighten people, but to tell the truth. There will be consequences if the UK leaves the EU. There will be consequences in many areas: on the single market, on financial centres, on economic development between our countries. That doesn’t mean everything will collapse – I don’t want to maintain this vision of catastophe – but there will be consequences, including on the issue of people. It won’t call our relations into question. (…)./.