The Channel was particularly deadly on Wednesday, November 24, when at least twenty-seven migrants died in the sinking of their boat, off Calais, according to a police report. It’s about “Worst accident”, according to the Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea, since the surge in 2018 of migratory crossings in the face of the increasing lockdown of the port of Calais and Eurotunnel, used until then by migrants trying to reach the ‘England.
Prime Minister Jean Castex regretted a “Tragedy” Wednesday. “My thoughts are with the many missing and wounded, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and misery”, added Mr. Castex in a message posted on Twitter, ensuring follow “The situation in real time”. The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, said, also on Twitter, get there.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday “Shocked, revolted and deeply saddened” by the accident. He also called an interministerial crisis meeting, Downing Street announced. Rescue operations continued into the late afternoon. According to the prefecture, three helicopters and three boats are participating in the search.
31,500 migrants have left France via the Channel since the start of the year
“Around 2 pm, a fisherman reported the discovery of about fifteen bodies floating off Calais. A building of the French Navy recovered several bodies, including five deceased people and five unconscious, according to a provisional report ”, detailed the Ministry of the Interior. According to a source familiar with the matter, about fifty people were on board the boat, part of Dunkirk. The prosecution of this city has, moreover, announced to Agence France-Presse (AFP) the opening of an investigation for “Assistance with entry to irregular stay in an organized group” and “Aggravated manslaughter”.
“People are dying in La Manche, which is turning into an open-air cemetery, like the Mediterranean. As long as England is in front, people will continue to cross “, was alarmed Pierre Roques, coordinator of L’Auberge des migrants, an association in Calais. Across the Channel, the Conservative MP for Dover, Natalie Elphicke, was also moved by“An absolute tragedy”. “This shows that to save lives at sea, we must first prevent boats from entering the water”, she said, calling for “Put an end to these dangerous crossings”.
Attempts to migrate across the Channel on board small boats have doubled in the past three months, warned, on November 19, the maritime prefect of the Channel and the North Sea, Philippe Dutrieux. As of November 20, 31,500 migrants had left the coast since the start of the year and 7,800 migrants had been rescued, he said. A trend, he had noticed, which has not abated, despite the winter temperatures. According to London, 22,000 migrants made the crossing over the first ten months of the year. UK news agency PA estimated the figure at more than 25,700, three times more than in all of 2020.
Six dead in 2020, four in 2019
M. Dutrieux explains this phenomenon in particular by “The cynicism of the organizations that are behind these passages, which throw migrants into the water because it is a business that pays well”. Before this sinking, the death toll since the beginning of 2021 stood at three dead and four missing in Channel crossings. In 2020, six people were killed and three others were missing. Four deaths were recorded in 2019.
These crossings are a subject of regular tension between Paris and London, the British authorities considering insufficient French efforts to prevent migrants from boarding, despite the payment of financial aid. Marking a tightening promised as part of Brexit, the UK government has started pushing through a controversial bill that reforms the asylum system and plans to toughen sanctions against illegal immigration, including the maximum penalty incurred by smugglers to life imprisonment, against fourteen years currently.
“We’ve been denouncing and warning about the dangerous situation at the border for years”, by amounting to “More than 300” the number of migrants who have died on the coast since 1999, for her part, reacted Charlotte Kwantes, head of Utopia56. “As long as safe passageways are not put in place between England and France, or as long as these persons cannot be regularized in France, [Gérald] Darmanin, come or not to Calais, there will be deaths at the border ”, she said.