Emmanuel Macron to tell Theresa May to take more child refugees in face-to-face meeting

Emmanuel Macron to tell Theresa May to take more child refugees in face-to-face meeting

15/01, 11:45 - The British government limited its scheme to help unaccompanied minors after a backlash from right-wing tabloids

Emmanuel Macron will press Theresa May to take in more unaccompanied child refugees and pay more towards policing the port of Calais in a meeting between the two leaders on Thursday.

The French president will on Tuesday visit the refugee camps in Calais ahead of the summit to survey the camp where his government estimates 400 people are living in the hope of reaching the UK.

The Touquet accords, signed in 2003, effectively moved the British border to the French side of the channel and allowed UK immigration officers to carry out checks in Calais.

While serving as economy minister in the French Socialist government in March 2016 ahead of the EU referendum, Mr Macron himself warned the agreements would have to be renegotiated if the Leave campaign won.

Now the French government says the UK must take in more refugees from the area, in particular unaccompanied minors – and pay more for policing the daily cat-and-mouse game between authorities and people trying to enter the UK.

Gérard Collomb, France’s interior minister, who will accompany Mr Macron to Calais on Tuesday, told Le Parisien newspaper: “I hope to succeed in getting an additional element to these agreements, and concrete measures regarding the covering of a certain number of costs by the British, as well as the receiving of a greater number of people, in terms of refugees and non-accompanied minors.”

These changes would take the form of an additional protocol to the Touquet accords, he said.

The French presidential palace issued a statement saying the two leaders would discuss “ways to improve the handling of migrants on the common border in Calais” when they meet at Sandhurst for bilateral talks on Thursday.

Downing Street however did not mention the issue in its opposite-number statement, laying out only defence and security as matters for discussion.

Theresa May’s government has a poor record on the issue of unaccompanied minors, having prematurely capped the so-called “Dubs scheme” after right-wing tabloids led a media backlash against helping the children. 

The Government used a rambling ministerial statement to quietly announce it would be taking only 480 unaccompanied minors, despite suggestions under David Cameron that 3,000 would be helped when the scheme was initiated.

The UK has taken far fewer refugees in than other large western European countries.  David Cameron pledged to take 4,000 a year over five years, while 1.4 million have applied for asylum in Germany since the start of the crisis in 2014. 

Ministers say Britain’s large contribution to international aid budgets makes up for the shortfall, and that helping migrants to build new lives in safety only encourages them to flee warzones and other dangers.