The Associated Press reported that on November 24, an overcrowded inflatable boat sank in the English Channel between Britain and France, killing 27 people. It is the deadliest migratory accident ever recorded in the English Channel.
Mohammed Ibrahim Zada, a Kurdish migrant from Iran, was on board the boat when it began to fill with water. He told Rudaw’s Kurdish media that France and Britain ignored their pleas for help.
“We called the French police and asked them to help us,” he said. “We sent our position to the French police, and they said, you are in British waters. So we were in British waters and called for the British police for help, but they said to call the French police. “
The UK Home Office said UK authorities responded to every call made that day and did not ignore the migrant’s call for help. Dan O’Mahoney, the British Channel’s Underground Threat Commander, said there were several migrant boats in the water during this time.
“I can’t tell you for sure if we really got a call from this boat or not,” O’Mahoney said, adding that the Coast Guard was trying to find out.
For more Associated Press reporting, see below.
Mahoney told the committee on Wednesday: “The French authorities alerted us to the presence of this boat … how well it was in French territorial waters,” he said. “It may never be possible to say with absolute precision whether this boat was in British or French waters before that. “
Another survivor, Mohamed Isa Omar, told the BBC he heard at least one passenger come into contact with British authorities as the boat sank.
“Our mobiles were already in the water,” said Omar. “But one of us had his cell phone still on,” he called, and the [British] authorities told him to send the location. But before he did that, the mobile also fell into the water, and we couldn’t send anything. “
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has proposed legislation that would give authorities patrolling the Channel the power to turn back boats carrying migrants. The Nationality and Borders Bill would also make it more difficult for people who enter the country illegally to seek asylum and allow asylum seekers to be screened abroad.
But the Joint Committee on Human Rights, an all-party panel that includes members from both houses of parliament, said on Wednesday that “a policy of refoulement” would likely conflict with international human rights law. and maritime law.
“Pushbacks are known to endanger lives at sea,” the committee said in a report. “This is even truer when it comes to dealing with people on board small boats unsuitable for navigation, in a busy shipping lane, often with rough waters, without proper rescue equipment, as is the case with migrants in small boats in the English Channel. “
More than 25,000 people have reached Britain on small boats this year, up from 8,500 in 2020 and just 300 in 2018, pressuring Johnson and his Tory government to intervene.
Johnson says the nationality and borders bill currently making its way through Parliament will stem the tide by undermining the business model of smugglers who charge thousands of pounds (dollars) to carry out illegal passage.
The Home Office, which oversees border enforcement, said it sought to “prevent further loss of life at sea” and rejected the idea that the government’s proposals violate international law. But human rights activists disagree, saying government policies put lives at risk and will do little to deter migrants.
The government’s new Borders Bill also proposes to treat asylum seekers who sneak into Britain more harshly than those who use the few roads allowed for refugees. The human rights committee said this was incompatible with the UN Refugee Convention, which “explicitly prohibits refugees from being penalized for unauthorized entry.”
Labor lawmaker Harriet Harman, who chairs the committee, said the government’s plans would not discourage crossings and make the icy seas even more dangerous.
“The current failings of the immigration and asylum system cannot be corrected by tougher penalties and more dangerous enforcement measures,” she said.