Shipwreck: At least 31 migrants die in the English Channel | International

At least 31 migrants trying to reach the British coast from the French through the English Channel have died this Wednesday, according to French authorities. Among the dead there is a girl, has detailed the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin. Only two people, with serious symptoms of hypothermia, have been rescued by the French rescue teams sent to the area after the alert from a fishing boat. The tragedy, the worst of its kind recorded in recent years in this area, is one more example of the strong rise in this type of irregular migration in a year in which all the maximums in terms of sea crossings in precarious vessels are being exceeded. This has caused strong tensions between Paris and London, which are mutually responsible for the situation. French President Emmanuel Macron has called for an “urgent” meeting of European ministers responsible for migration policy.

“France will not allow the canal [de la Mancha] become a cemetery, “said Macron in a statement released by the Elysee. The president has assured that “everyone” in the Government is shocked by “this tragedy that hurts each one in the privacy of their values” and that requires “expanding” immediately multinational efforts to avoid “other similar tragedies”.

In this sense, the French president has asked “to accelerate the dismantling of criminal networks together with the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.” For Macron, Europe must approve an “immediate reinforcement of Frontex media at the external borders of the EU” and an “emergency meeting of European ministers concerned by the migration challenge” is also required.

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Prime Minister Jean Castex will hold an inter-ministerial meeting early Thursday with his Ministers of the Interior, Justice, Defense, the Sea and Transport, as well as those responsible for Foreign Relations and European Affairs, the agency France Presse advances.

To the victims’ relatives – whose identity and even nationality is unknown, since they did not carry papers, according to Darmanin – Macron has promised that “everything possible will be done to find and convict those responsible who, through networks of traffickers who they exploit misery and despair, endanger human lives and end up decimating families ”. According to his Interior Minister shortly afterwards, four alleged human traffickers have already been arrested.

Shortly after the first details of the “tragedy” became known, as Jean Castex described it, the French Government has emphasized the need to act firmly and internationally against the trafficking networks that organize this type of crossing.

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Three boats and two helicopters participated in the rescue operation, after a fishing boat notified the authorities that “numerous castaways” had been spotted floating in the waters of the Pas-de-Calais Strait, explained the Maritime Prefecture of La Mancha. and the North Sea in a statement.

Despite the fact that according to the French Government this year there have been more than 47,000 sea crossing attempts, compared to 12,000 in 2020, deaths from shipwrecks in the English Channel are very rare – unlike in the Mediterranean – due to the close surveillance of both French and British patrols, both the authorities and the NGOs working on the ground agree. Some 7,800 migrants have been rescued in 2021 in the waters of the canal, Macron stressed in this regard. In addition, the French forces of order have managed to prevent the departure of 57% of the small boats, the precarious boats that migrants use to try to reach the British coast, according to Interior sources.

A group of migrants arrives on the British coast this Wednesday.BEN STANSALL (AFP)

Between 2018 and 2020, only 11 deaths were recorded in this area, the closest point between the European and British coasts, which is why attempts to reach the United Kingdom by sea have multiplied, especially since the strong security it has made irregular transit through the Eurotunnel and on the ferries more difficult. The fact that more and more precarious boats are being used – recently the chain of sports stores Decathlon banned the sale of kayaks in this region to prevent these canoes from being used to reach the United Kingdom – has set off the alarms of all those responsible in the last few months, they feared a similar tragedy at any moment. On the night of last Friday to Saturday, 243 migrants were rescued by French patrols.

At the beginning of November, almost 1,200 people managed to cross the channel, according to the British authorities. The record for irregular crossings has not stopped growing, especially since the summer.

Following a harsh new exchange of accusations between Paris and London, accusing France of not doing enough to prevent migrants from leaving its shores, the French government last week ordered the dismantling at Grande-Synthe, between Calais and Dunkirk, of the largest irregular migrant camp in recent years, which meant the displacement of more than a thousand people. In total, so far in 2021, France says it has dismantled 44 smuggling networks, up from 23 in 2020, and has apprehended 1,552 smugglers along the northern coastline off the British coast.

Johnson demands more effort from France

The numbers of immigrants who have made the crossing of the canal so far this year have also increased the tension within the British Government between the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and his Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel. Recent polls show that this issue is drawing more and more support from the Conservative Party among its voters. Johnson has convened this Wednesday the different departments of his Executive that make up the COBRA crisis cabinet to analyze what happened off the coast of Calais.

Shortly after, the British Prime Minister appeared before the cameras in Downing Street. “I am shocked, horrified and deeply saddened by what has happened,” he said. “[Esta tragedia] It shows that the gangs that are transporting all these people in these dangerous boats are not going to stop at nothing ”, added Johnson, who has once again suggested to the French government that it redouble its efforts to prevent irregular immigration. “I’m afraid it also shows that the operation carried out by our friends on the coast, to which the UK has contributed more than € 64 million and with technical assistance, has not been enough. That is why we offer increased aid, but also that we work together on the very ground from which these vessels set sail, ”said Johnson.

When asked if he maintained his confidence in Minister Patel, Johnson has answered with a terse “yes”. Shortly after, it was Patel herself who expressed in a statement her condolences to the families of the victims and condemned “the criminal gangs” responsible for the trafficking of immigrants. But he also used the occasion to defend his New Immigration Plan, which toughens the conditions for entry into the United Kingdom, with its “revision of a broken system for granting asylum, and of many of the factors that encourage immigrants to do the same. dangerous trip from France ”, has affirmed Patel.

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