More than 20 people are feared to have died after their boat capsized while trying to cross the English Channel. These are the asylum seekers some Britons have considered sending over to the Falkland Islands earlier this week as scores of mostly Iranians, Iraqis, Eritreans and Syrians keep rafting in.
Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart said in a TV interview that the death toll stood at 27, while Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said: “This is an absolute tragedy. It underlines why saving lives at sea starts by stopping the boats entering the water in the first place.
“As winter is approaching the seas will get rougher, the water colder, the risk of even more lives tragically being lost greater, she added. “That’s why stopping these dangerous crossings is the humanitarian and right thing to do.”
Over 25,000 migrants have successfully crossed the Channel into the UK this year, three times as many as in 2020. But Wednesday morning the waters of the English Channel were absolutely freezing cold, as you would imagine, according to witnesses. Hence there was little to no hope any of the refugees could have survived the boat's accident.
According to fishermen, more refugees left France’s northern shores than usual to take advantage of calm sea conditions Wednesday. Rescue services were summoned after an empty dinghy was sighted with motionless people floating nearby.
“Strong emotions in response to the tragedy that left several dead due to the capsizing of a migrant boat in the English channel,” France's Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on Twitter, while Prime Minister Jean Castex dubbed the boat capsizing a “tragedy”.
“My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and misery,” Castex wrote on social media after French patrol vessels found five bodies and five others unconscious in the water after a fisherman alerted authorities.
The incident comes amid growing tensions between London and Paris over a number of issues ranging from migrants to fisheries and electricity supply. Britain has urged France to take stricter actions against those attempting to take the journey.
According to French authorities, some 31,500 people have tried to leave for Britain since the start of the year and 7,800 people have been rescued at sea. The trend is increasing rapidly since August.
Besides Wednesday's events, other 7 people have been confirmed dead or are still missing feared drowned after various incidents this year.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under growing pressure to end this trend. According to UK data, more than 25,000 people have arrived in the country so far this year. Home Secretary Priti Patel has told Darmanin that stopping people making their way from France on small boats was her “number one priority”.
French authorities insist it is up to the UK to help fund French maritime border patrols.