French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson both expressed horror at the tragedy, with Macron saying his country would not allow Chanel to become a cemetery. The leaders agreed to step up joint efforts to stop migrant crossings – which have increased dramatically this year – but also accused each other of not doing enough.
In a phone call on Wednesday night, Macron went ahead and urged Johnson to stop politicizing the migrant crisis for domestic political gain, according to a French readout of their conversation.
On Thursday morning, the finger-raising process continued among the junior leaders.
The Member of Parliament from Dover, England, where many expatriates from France come, told CNN that the deaths in the channel were “completely foreseen”, and pitched the problem as a border policing issue, the solution to which lies in France.
“It was an absolutely visionary tragedy that sooner or later one of these boats would capsize and people would die,” Natalie Elfike told CNN near the port of Dover on Thursday.
“People are safe in France, and the best way to keep people safe is to keep them on the shore, not in the hands of smugglers in the middle of the channel,” he said.
The British politician said that the French “stand where people are getting into boats and they are not stopping them. This is where policy needs to be changed, on the French side.”
Meanwhile, French Interior Minister Gerald Dormanin urged more support from European neighbors, telling radio station RTL on Thursday that France “cannot be the only one 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 should help us fight against international smugglers who Play along the boundaries,” said Dormanin.
Asked why Britain attracts so many illegal immigrants, Darmann pointed to Britain’s ways of managing migration and its thriving labor market. “Clearly there is mismanagement of immigration into the UK,” he said.
Meanwhile, UK Immigration Minister Kevin Foster told the BBC on Thursday that the government was determined to “break” the “really bad business model” of people trafficking.
This includes increasing penalties for trafficking to life in prison and improving “safe” immigration routes directly from areas of conflict or refugee camps, he said. Foster said Britain has started giving France $72 million in installments to deal with the crisis.
a fatal crossing
Five people-smugglers have now been arrested in connection with Wednesday’s deadly sea crossing, Darmanin told RTL on Thursday. He said one of the smugglers arrested on Wednesday night had a “German license plate” and had “bought these boats in Germany.”
Darmanin said the survivors of the tragedy are two Somali and Iraqi citizens who suffered “severe hypothermia” and were transferred to a hospital in Calais, northern France. According to Darmanin, five of the 27 dead are women, of whom one is still missing.
The narrow waterway between Britain and France is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Refugees and migrants fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty in the world’s poorest or war-torn countries, hoping to claim asylum or economic opportunities in the UK, run the risk of dangerous crossings that are often unfit for travel and traffickers. at the mercy of.
Darmanin said the migrants’ dinghy had collapsed, and when rescuers arrived it was “blown up like an inflatable garden pool”, according to Reuters.
Migrants once sought to smuggle themselves to and from France or by rail on trucks regularly crossing the Channel. But in recent years this route has become more expensive, with people-smugglers charging thousands of euros for each attempt.
So far this year, more than 25,700 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats to the UK – three times the total for the whole of 2020, according to data compiled by the PA Media news agency. On Wednesday alone, French authorities rescued 106 people. Various boats were washed away in the Channel, and over 200 people made the crossing.
CNN’s Mia Alberti, Mick Craver, Nick Robertson and Lindsay Isaacs contributed to this report