Channel drownings: UK and France trade accusations after tragedy at sea
Boris Johnson renews calls for France to agree to joint patrols along its coast, while Emmanuel Macron urges UK not to politicise the flow of migrants
British and French leaders have traded accusations after at least 27 people died trying to cross the Channel in the deadliest incident since the current migration crisis began.
In a phone call with Boris Johnson on Wednesday night, French president
Darmanin told a news conference in Calais those who died in Wednesday’s tragedy included five women and a girl. He said the boat that sank had been “very frail”, and compared it to “a pool you blow up in your garden”.
He said 34 people were believed to have been on before it sank and it was not clear what country the victims originally came from.
Four suspected traffickers have been arrested, two of whom later appeared in court, he said.
Refugee charities called on the government to save lives by opening safe routes for asylum seekers to apply to come to the UK without taking to the sea.
Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “How many tragedies like this must we see before the government fundamentally changes its approach by committing to an ambitious expansion of safe routes for those men, women and children in desperate need of protection?
“Every day, people are forced to flee their homes through no fault of their own. Now is the time to end the cruel and ineffective tactic of seeking to punish or push away those who try and find safety in our country.”
An emergency search was sparked at about 2pm on Wednesday when a fishing boat sounded the alarm after spotting several people at sea off the coast of France.
The latest deaths follow others reported but unverified in the Channel in recent weeks, amid a record number of people attempting the crossing. On 11 November, a total of 1,185 people arrived in England by boat, the most in a single day.
More than 25,700 people have made the dangerous journey to the UK in small boats this year – three times the total for the whole of 2020, according to official figures.
It was widely expected that the number of crossings would reduce in the winter. Instead, bigger boats have been used to bring people to the UK in greater numbers.
- Immigration and asylum
- Boris Johnson
- Emmanuel Macron