Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

More than 30 people drowned during an attempt to cross the English Channel from France in the worst accident in a surge of secret small boat crossings that weakened relations between French and British authorities.

French officials said they were warned of the disaster by the crew of a fishing boat that people saw in the sea in Dover-Calais Street.

Gérald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, said 31 people drowned after the tugboat capsized, including five women and a girl.

Boris Johnson said he was “shocked, upset and deeply saddened” by the deaths and said attempts to stop the intersections “were not enough”.

The British Prime Minister added that human traffickers “get away with murder” and the UK was keen to work with the French government to do more. “This is the offer we make,” he said.

Emmanuel Macron, President of France, has called for more cooperation within the EU and with the UK to combat human trafficking gangs.

“France will not allow the Channel to become a cemetery,” he said. “Europe and its deep respect for humanity are in mourning.”

Macron added that there is a need to accelerate efforts to break up criminal gangs with the help of the UK, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

Gérald Darmanin, France’s Home Secretary, speaks in Calais on Wednesday night © AFP via Getty Images

Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart blamed Britain. “The British government is to blame,” she said. “I believe Boris Johnson has cynically chosen the past year and a half to blame France.”

The UK and France have for years had bitter exchanges over the number of migrants, many from the Middle East and Afghanistan, who want to reach the UK from France.

London accused France of not blocking the flow of migrants from the French side of the Channel, while Paris blamed the UK for its lax approach to migration, saying new arrivals could often work illegally in Britain.

Moods have cooled in recent days following a call between Darmanin and British Home Secretary Priti Patel and the dismantling of a camp of hundreds of migrants near Dunkirk by French police.

The number of people claiming asylum in the UK after crossing the Channel in boats has reached 25 700 for this year so far, more than three times the total of 8 469 for the whole of 2020.

There were numerous reports of individual deaths. French officials reported over the weekend that 31,500 migrants had left the French coast for England since the beginning of the year.

Of those, 7,800 were rescued and seven died or disappeared. Decathlon, the sports and clothing retailer, said it had stopped selling kayaks in Dunkirk and Calais because they were used for dangerous crossings.

Two helicopters, one from France and one from the UK, and three French vessels took part in the ongoing rescue operation on Wednesday.

The French Interior Ministry said this week it was deploying € 11 million worth of new equipment, including off-road vehicles, speedboats and night sightseeing, under its agreement with the UK to stop crossings.

Smugglers have started using larger inflatable boats this year to fit more migrants into a single crossing. They also launched from a greater variety of beaches and sent migrants on longer, more dangerous crossings to evade the French authorities’ efforts to stop them.

Jean-Marc Puissesseau, president and chairman of the ports of Calais and Boulogne, said the UK and the EU should work together to find a solution to tugboat crossings.

“All over Europe and the UK, we should all try to find a solution, because there will be more.”

Small boat migration has replaced previous secret methods of reaching the UK, such as hiding in trucks as the investigation into those routes intensified.

There were numerous small boat crossings on Wednesday amid very calm weather in the Channel.

A steady stream of British frontier cutters were unloading men, women and children who had arrived in Dover. Large inflatable boats filled with small hand pumps to keep the vessels inflated were also brought ashore.

Wednesday’s crash is the worst tragedy since small boat crossings became a major means of covert migration to the UK about three years ago. The previous worst single incident has the drown of four members of an Iranian Kurdish family outside Calais in October last year.

Additional post by Sebastian Payne

Source link

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *