France uninvites UK Home Secretary Priti Patel from migrants meeting

PARIS — France on Friday uninvited U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel from a meeting with European interior ministers scheduled for Sunday to discuss dangerous crossings of the English Channel by migrants.

The move comes in response to an open letter sent by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to French President Emmanuel Macron, urging a deal “to allow all illegal migrants who cross the Channel to be returned.”

“We find the open letter from the British prime minister unacceptable … Thus, Priti Patel is not invited anymore to the ministers’ meeting,” a French interior ministry official told POLITICO.

Interior ministers from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany are set to meet Sunday with representatives from the European Commission in the French port city of Calais to discuss how to curb dangerous crossings of the Channel by migrants who want to reach the U.K., after 27 people drowned in the sinking of a dinghy Wednesday night. Patel had been slated to attend the meeting.

U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps reacted to the French move by telling Times Radio “the only way we can solve this is to work together,” adding: “It can’t be resolved unless we’re talking so I do very much hope that a route is found to ensure that can happen.”

French police are facing unprecedented challenges to prevent crossings as smugglers become more organized. Close to 26,000 migrants have reached the U.K. by small boats this year, according to the British Home Office.

In his letter, Johnson called for a readmission agreement between the U.K. and the EU, but also asked Macron to strike a bilateral deal “to allow all illegal migrants who cross the Channel to be returned” to France.

This article has been updated.

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