At least 27 people died making the sea journey Wednesday. The migrants, that included a young girl drowned in the cold winter waters off the French coast, when their inflatable vessel bound for Britain capsized and sank in the English channel. It is one of the largest losses of life in the English Channel in recent years.
The incident has brought to head simmering tensions in the migration crisis, and a war of words between English and French leaders over the handling of the crisis.
The British And French Fight Again
Ministers from both sides laid blame with their counterparts.
The leaders agreed to step up joint efforts to prevent the increasing and increasingly dangerous migrant crossings this year, but they also accused each other of not doing enough.
French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson both expressed horror at the tragedy, with Macron saying his country would not ‘let the English Channel become a graveyard. ‘
Leaders in Dover, England, the port for many migrants arriving from France, told CNN that the deaths in the Channel were ‘entirely foreseeable.’
‘This was an entirely foreseeable tragedy that sooner or later one of these boats would capsize and people would die,’ Natalie Elphike told CNN near Dover’s harbor.
People are safe in France, and the best way to keep people safe is to keep them on shore, not in the hands of people smugglers in the middle of the Channel,’ she added, laying the responsibility for better border policing with the French.
Smuggling and Immigration Mismanagement
The MP for Dover, Elphike further added that the French ‘are standing by where people are getting into boats and they’re not stopping them. That’s where the policy needs to change, on the French side.’
Meanwhile French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin urged more support from European neighbors, telling radio station RTL on Thursday that France cannot be the ‘only ones who can fight against smugglers.’
‘We are saying this to our Belgian friends … We are saying this to our German friends… And we are saying this to our English friends, that they must help us to fight against the smugglers who are international, who play with the borders,’ he said.
Darmanin pointed to Britain’s methods of managing migration and its thriving labor market as the reasons for increased immigration. ‘There’s obviously mismanagement of immigration in Britain,’ he noted.
Crossing the English Channel
Refugees and migrants fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty in the world’s poorest, war-torn countries routinely risk the dangerous crossing, a narrow waterway between Britain and France and one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
Migrants often used locally purchased dinghies unfit for the voyage and find themselves at the mercy of smugglers while at sea, hoping to claim asylum or economic opportunities for a better future in Britain.
Darmanin said the migrants’ dinghy had collapsed, and when rescuers had arrived it was ‘deflated like an inflatable garden pool,’ according to Reuters.
So far this year, more than 25,700 people have crossed the English Channel to Britain in small boats, despite the obvious dangers, according to data compiled by PA Media news agency — three times the total for the whole of 2020.
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