In his first year in office, French President Emmanuel Macron held a speech in the port city, Calais. On Tuesday, he gave a speech and vowed to tighten up measures against the migrant problem in France.
In this visit, Macron asserted his ambitions and what will happen moving forward with regards to migrants in the region. According to the New York Times, he said this specific part of France would never again be a dumping ground for them.
“Under no circumstances will we allow the Jungle to come back,” he told the officers, referring to the squalid encampment that once housed over 8,000 migrants near here, and that was torn down by Mr. Macron’s predecessor in the fall of 2016.
The Times analysis goes on to add in spite of the recent crackdowns the number of migrants is 600. These several hundreds of migrants are younger Eritreans, Sudanese, and Afghans.
In spite of Macron trying to project a new direction in Calais, he was instead met with opposition and critique. As stated by the French daily, Le Monde, leading intellectuals along with a one-time top adviser of a think tank accused Macron of breaking with the humanism he once advocated.
What is interesting is the current position Macron took on Tuesday at Calais compared to the campaign when he ran for president. He once promoted a platform that would welcome migrants whereas his former National Front opponent, Marine Le Pen, sought to establish harsher immigration measures.
“Before his election in May, Macron campaigned on a platform of welcoming migrants, and many saw his victory as a repudiation of the anti-immigrant hard line of his opponent, Marine Le Pen. But after months of expulsions and police crackdowns targeting the migrant community, some of Macron’s powerful supporters — particularly on the left — are signaling that they feel betrayed.”
Macron added that it was okay to openly criticize the government and its policies. However, the distinction should be made that citizens can be skeptical of government officials but not their functionaries. In other words, disrespecting civil servants is unacceptable.
Elsewhere, the visit to the port city had another agenda in mind. Macron is looking to modify an agreement between France and the UK, as claimed by France 24. Specifically, the French head of state wants to change a 2003 border control agreement that allows British officials to help carry out checks in Calais. What this does is it moves the British border to the French port and spares Britain from receiving an influx of migrants.
The president of France is scheduled to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May this Thursday. They will discuss the migrant problem.
Macron said the three points he plans to raise with May include “better management of the issue of unaccompanied minors, reinforced police cooperation in Calais and with the countries of origin and transit and getting British funds for development projects in Calais.”
France’s current direction has shown a deviation from the campaign promises made by Macron and his current administration. Furthermore, how the meeting will go is also uncertain. The UK is already undertaking the necessary steps towards a definitive Brexit on March 29, 2019. So, how all of these developments evolve is impossible to predict until both leaders sit down and discuss the matters at hand.