French president Emmanuel Macron warned Boris Johnson to stop the “politicisation of migrant flows for domestic gain”, according to a Reuters report.
The leaders spoke during an urgent phone call late Wednesday night.
Johnson said he was “shocked and appalled” by the tragedy and suggested the French government had not always approached the problem of the crossings “in a way we think the situation deserves”.
People trafficking gangs were “literally getting away with murder”, he said.
However, Macron stressed “the shared responsibility” of France and the UK and told Johnson he expects full cooperation from the British and that they do not use the tragic situation “for political purposes”.
France’s government is holding an emergency meeting Thursday morning to discuss next steps. Macron advocated an immediate funding boost for the European Union’s border agency, Frontex, and an emergency meeting of European government ministers, according to his office.
“France will not allow the Channel to become a cemetery,” Macron said, adding: “Europe… is in mourning tonight.”
He promised “everything will be done to find and condemn those responsible” and that “France will not let the Channel become a graveyard”.
Mirelle Clapot, a member of the French National Assembly, said that the only solution can be found through co-operation during an interview with BBC Two’s Newsnight.
“France has some limited means and resources and I think France does its best but it’s really facing a challenge.
“The smugglers are becoming more and more powerful and want to make more and more money and so they convince these poor people that it’s time to cross the channel even when it is very cold and very dark.”
She said that the state had tried to propose other places to live in France but the migrants “have one obsession – to cross the channel”.
The tragedy is the worst-ever incident involving migrants in the Channel, according to French maritime authorities.