Migration France Britain
French police officers patrol on the beach in the searcher migrants in Wimereux, northern France, Wednesday, Nov.17, 2021. Several migrants died and others were injured Wednesday Nov.24, 2021 when their boat capsized off Calais in the English Channel as they tried to cross from France to Britain, authorities said. British and French authorities were searching the area using helicopters and coast guard vessels, according to the French maritime agency for the region. (AP Photo/Louis Witter, File)
world

Migrant boat capsizes in English Channel; at least 31 dead

40 Comments
By MICHEL SPINGLER and SYLVIA HUI

At least 31 migrants bound for Britain died Wednesday when their boat sank in the English Channel, in what France’s interior minister called the biggest tragedy involving migrants on the dangerous crossing to date.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 34 people were believed to have been on the boat. Authorities found 31 bodies — including those of five women and a young girl — and two survivors, he said. One person appeared to still be missing. The nationalities of the travelers was not immediately known.

Ever-increasing numbers of people fleeing conflict or poverty in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea or elsewhere are risking the perilous journey in small, unseaworthy craft from France, hoping to win asylum or find better opportunities in Britain. The crossings have tripled this year compared to 2020.

A joint French-British search operation for survivors was called off late Wednesday. Both countries cooperate to stem migration across the Channel but also accuse each other of not doing enough — and the issue is often used by politicians on both sides pushing an anti-migration agenda.

Four suspected traffickers were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of being linked to the sunken boat, Darmanin told reporters in the French port city of Calais. He said two of the suspects later appeared in court.

The regional prosecutor opened an investigation into aggravated manslaughter, organized illegal migration and other charges after the sinking. Lille Prosecutor Carole Etienne, whose office is overseeing the investigation, said officials were still working to identify the victims and determine their ages and nationalities.

She told The Associated Press that the investigation may involve multiple countries as more information about the passengers emerges.

“It’s a day of great mourning for France, for Europe, for humanity to see these people die at sea,” Darmanin said. He lashed out at “criminal traffickers” driving thousands to risk the crossing.

Activists demonstrated outside the port of Calais on Wednesday night, accusing governments of not doing enough to respond to migrants' needs. Hundreds of people live in precarious conditions along the French coast, despite regular police patrols and evacuation operations.

The bodies were brought to Calais. “Traffickers are assassins,” Jean-Marc Puissesseau, head of the ports of Calais and Boulogne, told The AP. “We were waiting for something like this to happen.”

Darmanin called for coordination with the U.K., saying “the response must also come from Great Britain.”

French President Emmanuel Macron advocated an immediate funding boost for the European Union's border agency, Frontex, and an emergency meeting of European government ministers “concerned by the migration challenge,” according to his office. “France will not allow the Channel to become a cemetery,” Macron said, according to his office.

France’s government is holding an emergency meeting Thursday morning to discuss the next steps.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened a meeting of the government's crisis committee, and said he was “shocked, appalled and deeply saddened."

He urged France to step up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, and said Wednesday’s incident highlighted how efforts by French authorities to patrol their beaches “haven’t been enough.”

He reiterated that Britain wants to work with the French to “break the business model” of smuggling gangs.

“Our offer is to increase our support but also to work together with our partners on the beaches concerned, on the launching grounds for these boats,” Johnson told reporters. “We’ve had difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that we think the situation deserves.”

French and British authorities have picked up thousands of migrants in the Channel in recent weeks, in scores of rescue operations.

Darmanin insisted that France has worked hard to prevent crossings, rescuing 7,800 people since January and stopping 671 who were trying to cross on Wednesday alone.

A French naval boat spotted several bodies in the water around 2 p.m. and rescue boats retrieved several dead and injured from the surrounding waters, a maritime authority spokesperson said. French patrol boats, a French helicopter and a British helicopter searched the area.

While deaths are occasionally reported on the crossing, such large loss of life in one boat is exceptional.

Migrants from around the world have long used northern France as a launching point to reach Britain by stowing away in trucks or using dinghies and other small boats organized by smugglers. Many want to reach the U.K. in search of economic opportunity or because of family and community ties, or because their efforts to win asylum in the EU failed. French authorities say another big draw is lax British rules toward migrants without residency papers.

The number of crossings in small boats has grown sharply this year, despite the high risks that are worsening in autumn weather.

More than 25,700 people undertook it so far this year — three times the total for the whole of 2020.

With changeable weather, cold seas and heavy maritime traffic, the crossing is dangerous for the inflatables and other small boats that men, women and children squeeze into.

“How many more times must we see people lose their life trying to reach safety in the UK because of the woeful lack of safe means to do so?" said Tom Davies, Amnesty International U.K.’s refugee and migrant rights campaign manager.

“We desperately need a new approach to asylum, including genuine Anglo-French efforts to devise safe asylum routes to avoid such tragedies happening again," he added.

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.


40 Comments
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Why not stay in EU? Not exactly Mexico is it. What is the draw to risk one's life to got the UK? (No offense intended to my British cousins).

10 ( +15 / -5 )

Awful. In order to stop this continuing, the incentives to make the journey need to be removed. The UK can’t be seen as a place of refuge for the 100s of millions that will follow, simply for the preservation of the country and its inhabitants ready there,

The coming mass migration owing to various factors is the biggest disaster we face. But it needs to be tackled at the root, not that I can think of any immediate solutions.

3 ( +10 / -7 )

above poster, they choose the uk because compared with anywhere else, regarding placement, benefits, housing etc, the uk, would you believe, is one of the best or kindest places to go ! Don’t get me wrong, any of those migrants with family in the uk deserve to be reunited with them, but the rest has to stop, certainly via this route. Anyway it’s a world humanitarian crisis. The numbers of people wanting to leave their countries is going to increase hugely

5 ( +12 / -7 )

Hard to imagine that with modern technology the Channel cannot be adequately policed to stop this happening. How desperate must these people be to risk this. RIP to those who lost their lives.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Thanks Simian, was genuinely confused.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

What is the draw to risk one's life to got the UK? 

Easily accessible benefits and an asylum system so flawed to be laughable.

13 ( +18 / -5 )

“It’s a day of great mourning for France, for Europe, for humanity to see these people die at sea,” Darmanin said. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened a meeting of the government's crisis committee, and said he was “shocked, appalled and deeply saddened."

Crocodile Tears...

5 ( +11 / -6 )

How desperate must these people be to risk this. 

They are already in France, with Germany, Holland and a host of other generous and affluent countries open to immigration nearby. These migrants are known to turn down French offers to apply for asylum in that country. They aren't all that "desperate."

8 ( +15 / -7 )

The UK has to do a better job of protecting its borders to discourage more illegal entry attempts like this tragedy.

5 ( +13 / -8 )

since when do we call illegal aliens "migrants?"

9 ( +16 / -7 )

Why not stay in EU?

Because Britain is, rightly or wrongly, perceived as a soft touch.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Let be clear these tragic drownings were totally avoidable.

The UK and French Governments refusal to work together, other than proportion blame, finger pointing.

All exasperated by the French police authorities literarily refusing to intervene while witnessing theses rubber inflatables packed with families women and childing preparing to make the hazardous crossing.

Not realizing what fate awaits them on arrival.

Migrants crossing the English Channel.

https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/migrants-crossing-the-english-channel/

So as one foot on UK soil without supporting paperwork, you are an illegal migrant.

That could mean months even years locked up, interned in what amounts to a prison camp.

However these ruthless people smugglers insist for 5000 euro per head the UK streets are paved with gold.

And they are not.

Immigration Detention in the UK

https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/immigration-detention-in-the-uk/

The number of detainees are close to a 100 fold increase since 2017.

The French authorities have in effect just turned a blind eye.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

“We desperately need a new approach to asylum, including genuine Anglo-French efforts to devise safe asylum routes to avoid such tragedies happening again," he added.

Providing safer migration routes would just make even more of a mockery of the asylum system. That sounds cold I know but it is not the way to solve this.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

There is a whole world of difference between asylum, migration. and refugee status.

What is the difference between a refugee, an asylum seeker and a migrant? Does it really matter to understand their definition? Yes, absolutely.

https://www.habitatforhumanity.org.uk/blog/2016/09/refugees-asylum-seekers-migrants-crucial-difference/

The crux of the matter is, UK and EU have a similar policy. That the irony.

Of course there is nobody official or otherwise pointing this out before these families clamber into the dinghy's.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It’s disgusting that people have to go to such lengths to escape the religious fanaticism in the Middle East.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

What terrible humanitarian catastrophe, what awful civil conflict, what barbaric breakdown of society must be happening right now to cause all of these people to have to flee for their lives from............ France.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Simian LaneToday 07:46 am JST

above poster, they choose the uk because compared with anywhere else, regarding placement, benefits, housing etc, the uk, would you believe, is one of the best or kindest places to go !

Or maybe .... because they speak English ? In Europe if you don't speak local you'll have a hard time doing anything.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

This latest tragic incident reminds us of the inevitable fallout from the big power politics of Western countries meddling in the Middle East which shows no sign of abating. Millions of ordinary, decent people are paying the price of decisions made by untouchable, well-heeled players in the corridors of power who continue to reap personal dividends from the mayhem. Let's hope that at least the criminal gangs of smugglers who make obscene profits from the desperation of refugees can be identified and brought to justice. In the meantime governments must do more to give humanitarian aid as winter sets in.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

When was the last time you visited London?

Or maybe .... because they speak English ? In Europe if you don't speak local you'll have a hard time doing anything.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

The is little doubt across western Europe there is an adoption that restrictions on immigration focused on ethnic competition for material resources, jobs that concentrate and digress into national political factors.

All have had dramatic consequences for political institutions, political behaviors in UK, Germany and France.

These deaths/drownings are a result.

There is an underling toxic political malaise, between the Government of France and the UK.

From and grumpy tolerance, when UK was a EU member state to poisonous outright hostility.

This could be a the underlying reason, why the relationship has broken down, manifested in the fact that even cooperation on migration has fallen foul of this loss of trust.

That is putting it mildly.

This situation both politically and diplomatically could have not hit rock bottom.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

GobshiteToday 10:03 am JST

When was the last time you visited London?

I acknowledge that it has been easily over a decade, however I am not sure to understand, they stopped speaking English in London ?

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

One refugee says in French, "I want to stay in France."

One refugee says in English, "I do not want to be in France. Please let me go. I want to go to Britain."

How will a hassled French police officer on the spot treat these two?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Many of these would be immigrants want to go to the UK because they speak at least a bit of English (certainly more than they speak French, German, Italian, etc) and Britain provides generous state benefits (certainly relative to the impoverished hell-holes they hail from) and there are already large immigrant communities there for them to join.

So, basically a heady mixture of post-colonial legacy, modern technology, 70 years of soft liberalism on the part of British governments and the chance for free housing and spending money.

Brits need to toughen up or this is only going to get worse.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

by my opinion and knowledge refugees can apply for asylum in first safe country without war and with democratic regime.

let me raise a question why they are want go to UK?

is France not safe country or not democratic oneor Germany/or e\any country say in EU?

this mystery for me remains unsolved.

say if refugees from Syria or Iraq dont look for asylum in UAE or say Libya.both safe countries,considered as democratic by West...same culture,same language,food,religion...why to go go to EU or say UK?

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Expect more to come.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

France is that bad?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Try learning French with its irregular adjectives-what a pain!

English is truly a world language.

And the temperatures in the UK are well down.

Anyway falling into the waters of the Channel are not going to last long….

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Life can be very hard and grim in the UK. My salary was so low that I tried going on the dole once for a few weeks and it was not a pleasant experience, though it helped me through a really rough patch with a young family and living in a squat.

Since then I have learned better how to stand on my own two feet without accepting government bailout money. I have a small house but my pension goes nowhere, so I am amazed at what some people can scrounge. You regularly hear complaints to the council such as, "Four bedrooms is just not enough for our large family. Give us a bigger house!"

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I have British friends married to Japanese and it seems very difficult even to get spouse visas unless you have a good paying job and savings already lined up yet they are inviting so many refugees to the UK?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

since when do we call illegal aliens "migrants?"

Invaders, or at least potential terrorists as you can see from the backgrounds of the people who commit such crimes in the UK.

All fighting-age men, they should be shot with rubber bullets as soon as they enter British water to deter them, arrested, put in a camp and deported back to where they set off from if they aren't forthcoming as to their nationality.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Reckless, yes my Mother Japanese, once a permanent UK resident would have to jump through a number of hoops if desiring to return.

Although I cannot think of reason Mum would want to.

Both Mum and Dad could return for up to 3 months I believe.

UK immigration policy is a conundrum, confused.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Tragic.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I have British friends married to Japanese and it seems very difficult even to get spouse visas unless you have a good paying job and savings already lined up yet they are inviting so many refugees to the UK?

Indeed. I'd return to England tomorrow if I could, but I'm too poor (and now too old to fix that) to get a spouse visa for my wife, so I'm stuck here. Meanwhile, for anyone who desires to enter Britain illegally, it's open door. Really unfair.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

“How many more times must we see people lose their life trying to reach safety in the UK because of the woeful lack of safe means to do so?" said Tom Davies, Amnesty International U.K.’s refugee and migrant rights campaign manager.

Illegal mass immigration is not "asylum". People should honor definitions of words.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

How terribly tragic. I can understand why they would want to leave thier former countries to live in the West. But is it worth risking detention or losing life?

Were they wearing life jackets?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Concerned citizen

they were already in the west. The wanted to go to England due to the easy money to be had for illegal immigrants who claim to be asylum seekers. Money which should be spent on infrastructure for legitimate uk citizens.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

How stupid is the UK immigration system? Well, if these people had not died but made it to shore and been picked up by immigration they would have several well known, in the illegal immigrant world, tricks. They are.... in no particular order....

Lose your passport. Then lie about where you are from. The authorities then have to find out and confirm where you are from.

Say you are gay, converted to Christianity or targeted by "who ever is in charge of where you are from"....

Tell the truth, they will not put you in jail but release you until a final decision is made. You have to register once a week. Sign up for the first week then go missing.

There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,200,000 undocumented migrants in the UK

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Mr KiplingToday 03:13 pm JST

How stupid is the UK immigration system?

You can thank 70 years of liberalism for that.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What is the draw to risk one's life to got the UK? 

The English language, low unemployment, and established immigrant communities from their background.

However, you'd still be insane to try to cross the channel in November in a rubber dinghy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Activists demonstrated outside the port of Calais on Wednesday night, accusing governments of not doing enough to respond to migrants' needs. 

These are the stupid people responsible for the deaths. Westerners so privileged and bored with all the gadgets and necessities of life, they choose illegal aliens and their very own countrymen upon which to exorcise their guilt. It’s a hobby of theirs at which everyone suffers. More money more benefits more pathways to citizenship; anything but follow the immigration laws. Yay!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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