Drowning in the Channel: UK and France exchange charges after tragedy at sea

Drowning in the Channel: UK and France exchange charges after tragedy at sea

British and French leaders have exchanged charges after at least 27 people died while attempting to cross the Channel in the deadliest incident since the start of the current migration crisis.

In a telephone interview with Boris Johnson on Wednesday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron underlined the “shared responsibility” of France and the United Kingdom, and told Johnson he expected full cooperation and that the situation would not be used “for political ends”, the Élysée mentioned.

Thirty-four people were on board the boat when it sank on Wednesday, which the International Organization for Migration said was the biggest loss of life in the English Channel since it began collecting data in 2014. Two survivors are in intensive care. .

The British Prime Minister renewed his calls for France to agree to joint police patrols along the Channel coast, and said Wednesday’s incident highlighted just how hard the authorities are French authorities to patrol their beaches “were not enough”.

“We have had difficulty persuading some of our partners, especially the French, to do things in a way that we think the situation deserves,” he said on Wednesday. “I understand the difficulties that all countries face, but what we want now is to do more together – and this is the offer we are making. “

The French have already resisted offers from the UK to send police officers and border forces to mount joint patrols amid concerns over the implications for national sovereignty.

Macron also called for an emergency meeting of ministers from European governments and an immediate increase in funding for the EU’s border agency, Frontex. The French government is holding an emergency meeting Thursday morning to discuss next steps.

“France will not let the English Channel become a cemetery,” Macron said.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin called for coordination with the UK, saying “the answer must also come from Britain”.

The House of Commons is expected to hold a debate on “the number of migrants arriving illegally in the UK by boat” on Thursday shortly before noon, according to a recently released parliamentary calendar.

Speaking on Newsnight, Immigration Compliance Minister Tom Pursglove confirmed that Johnson had renewed a previous offer for British police and border force officers to participate in joint patrols with the French, and has said the latest incident shows the two countries need to deepen their cooperation.

“The Prime Minister and President Macron had exactly this discussion tonight. This is something that I am very keen to see happen, ”he said. “In the past, we have offered to host and assist in joint patrols. I think this could be invaluable in helping to resolve this issue. I really hope the French will reconsider this offer.

A man rolls a stretcher at a warehouse in the port of Calais, France, where the bodies of migrants are believed to be transported after being recovered from a capsized boat off the coast of France Photography: Stefan Rousseau / PA

A spokesperson for Johnson said the two leaders agreed on the urgency of stepping up joint efforts to prevent the deadly crossings. They also stressed the importance of working closely with Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as with other countries on the continent.

Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart said it was the British who were to blame and called on Johnson to “take responsibility”. “The British government is to blame. I think Boris Johnson has, for a year and a half, cynically chosen to blame France, ”she said, according to French media.

The English Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and the currents are strong. Human traffickers typically overcrowd inflatable boats, barely leaving them afloat and at the mercy of the waves as they attempt to reach British shores.

The two countries cooperate to stem migration across the Channel, but also accuse each other of not doing enough – and the issue is often used by politicians on both sides to promote an anti-migration agenda.

Darmanin told a press conference in Calais that those who died in Wednesday’s tragedy included five women and a girl. He said the boat that sank was “very fragile” and compared it to “a pool that you blow up in your backyard”.

He said 34 people were believed to have been on board before it sank and it was not clear which country the victims were originally from.

Four suspected traffickers were arrested, two of whom later appeared in court, he said.

Refugee charities have called on the government to save lives by opening safe routes for asylum seekers to request to come to the UK without going to sea.

Enver Solomon, Chief Executive Officer 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 roads for men, women. what about children who are 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 repel those who seek to find safety in our country. “

An emergency search was triggered at around 2 p.m. on Wednesday when a fishing boat sounded the alarm after spotting several people at sea off the French coast.

The latest deaths follow more reported but unverified in the English Channel in recent weeks, amid record numbers attempting the crossing. On November 11, 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 all of 2020, according to official figures.

The number of crossings was generally expected to decrease in the winter. Instead, bigger boats were used to bring people to the UK in greater numbers.


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