Tens of Migrants Died Trying to Cross Channel to Britain
TEHRAN (FNA)- At least 30 migrants died on Wednesday trying to cross the English Channel, a major waterway that runs between France and Britain.
Of the 34 people who were on the boat, 31 died, two had been rescued and one was still missing, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed.
He added that the two survivors were experiencing "severe hypothermia".
Darmanin has criticized UK's open-door labor policy for illegal immigrants amid the deadly migrant boat accident near the French shore, which became the biggest single loss of life in the English Channel.
Darmanin told broadcaster RTL that migrants are attracted to the UK by the British labour market. He noted that London must change its policy and exert pressure on the employers hiring illegal workers.
The minister also stressed that France must stop being the only country fighting the smugglers involved in the illegal trafficking of migrants.
He said Germany and Belgium can also make more efforts to combat this problem.
The English Channel is a high-traffic area for commercial shipping, and the waterway is known to have strong currents. Reuters reported that the migrants made their way across the channel with the hope for calm conditions this time of year, though the water is particularly cold. However, small boats, especially when overloaded, often can barely stay afloat amid big wakes and tall waves. French police, however, have stopped more crossings recently than in previous years.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that the UK was prepared to provide more support to France to patrol its Northern beaches to prevent boats packed with migrants setting off across the English Chanel.
“That’s something I hope will be acceptable now in the view of what has happened,” he said.
He also highlighted how efforts by French authorities to patrol their beaches “haven’t been enough”, according to British media reports.
The PM spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron over the phone on Wednesday evening in the wake of the tragic death of tens of migrants, including women and a child.
The UK and France agreed to “keep all options on the table” in efforts to crack down on human trafficking gangs which they blamed for putting desperate people at risk, stated Downing Street. The two leaders are said to have underscored the importance of working closely with Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as other countries across the European continent.
Macron stressed “the shared responsibility” of the two countries in dealing with the crisis, telling Johnson the situation should not be used “for political purposes”, according to the Élysée Palace. Macron also called for an emergency meeting of European government ministers and more funding for the EU’s border agency, Frontex.
“France will not let the Channel become a cemetery,” added Macron.
The French Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin, who gave an impromptu news conference in Calais, noted the boat involved in the tragic incident had been "very frail", likening it to "a pool you blow up in your garden".
Darmanin said that on Wednesday there had been 780 police officers watching the coastline, with 671 migrants arrested but over 250 people making the crossing.
“It was therefore a day like any other, unfortunately,” he added, as he reiterated that efforts to address the crisis ought to be coordinated with the UK, insisting that “the response must also come from Great Britain”.
Later on Wednesday, Immigration Compliance Minister Tom Pursglove confirmed that the PM had renewed the proposal for joint patrols with the French side.
Paris has been reluctant to get on board with the proposal, citing concerns about their national sovereignty.
“The Prime Minister and President Macron have had exactly that discussion this evening. That is something that I am very keen to see happen. It is the case that in the past we have offered to host and to help with joint patrols. I think that could be invaluable in helping to address this issue. I really do hope that the French will reconsider that offer,” Pursglove announced on BBC2’s Newsnight.
Three helicopters and three boats took part in the search for migrants from the capsized dinghy. French prosecutors have opened a manslaughter probe and four people suspected of being linked to the drownings having been arrested, according to reports.
Johnson, who held a Cobra meeting on Wednesday, said he was “appalled” by the tragic loss of life. After the meeting, the PM said it was obvious that French patrols "haven't been enough", despite £54 million in UK support for the purpose.
“We’ve had difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that we think the situation deserves. I understand the difficulties that all countries face, but what we want now is to do more together – and that’s the offer we are making,” Johnson told reporters.
At least 25,700 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats this year, which is three times the total for the entire 2020.