Written by Staff Writer, CNN
London and Paris have escalated a war of words over the suffocation deaths of at least 74 migrants last week in the Channel.
Bowing to weeks of public criticism from the British, French authorities on Wednesday announced a mandatory evacuation of migrants from beaches around Calais and elsewhere in northern France.
Under the plan, all migrants will be sent to integrated centers, the interior minister Gerard Collomb told France Info radio.
“In our prisons they are detained by the hundreds. We don’t have the capacity, neither must we have the capacity to hold them. Migrants represent a health risk. They constitute a risk to public order,” Collomb said.
He said the current state of affairs “has led us to the conclusion” that, with medical facilities currently “stagnant,” there was no other alternative than sending all migrants “for their own safety and that of other migrants.”
Following the announcement, his British counterpart, Sajid Javid, accused his French counterpart, Christophe Castaner, of “calculating and opportunistic behavior.”
He said officials had reassured him the plan was an attempt to push migrants toward alternative locations, such as camps on the nearby French coast.
“The French authorities have also assured me, in public and in private, that they have no intentions of moving people from Calais to France. They are disappointed that the French government has now confirmed this,” Javid said in a statement.
Reports that over 74 migrants drowned in a sinking off the coast of France last week had further complicated bilateral relations between Britain and France after initial reports from British authorities that the shipwreck may have been due to a terrorist attack.
The British government eventually determined the cause was most likely due to heavy currents, although an investigation by an international advisory body that is due to be completed next week has found “a number of worrying evidential anomalies,” according to the BBC.
In response to Javid’s statement, Castaner tweeted that he had made “certain statements” since last month “which have been misrepresented.”
“You may think that rehashing a series of tweets which are on the minister’s own website will suppress this issue, but I challenge him to do so. No one is happy to be accused of suicide,” Castaner wrote.