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Channel deaths: More boats arrive after 27 people drown

Channel deaths: More boats arrive after 27 people drown thumbnail

By Dulcie Lee

BBC News

Media caption,

Watch: Migrant boats continue to arrive on English beaches

More people have made the perilous journey across the English Channel, a day after 27 people drowned in the deadliest crossing on record.

A group wearing life jackets were seen huddled together onboard a lifeboat near Dover on Thursday morning.

Those who drowned on Wednesday included 17 men, seven women – one of whom was pregnant – and three children, France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Five people have been arrested in connection with the fatal crossing.

Two survivors are currently in a critical condition in a French hospital, where they are being treated for severe hypothermia.

One of them is Iraqi and the other Somalian, Mr Darmanin told RTL radio.

It was earlier reported 31 people had died, but the total was revised down overnight into Thursday.

The alarm was raised on Wednesday after a fishing boat crew spotted several people in the sea off the coast of France.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has spoken to her French counterpart and will update MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon.

Downing Street said the scenes of people continuing to arrive in boats on England’s south coast showed the need to crack down on traffickers.

“It illustrates that we absolutely need to step up our work with our French counterparts to dismantle this horrific trade which preys on vulnerable people,” the prime minister’s official spokesperson said.

Earlier, immigration minister Kevin Foster said the UK was determined to smash the “evil” business model of people traffickers.

Mr Foster said ruthless criminals were sending people into the Channel’s dangerous waters on flimsy boats without proper equipment.

“Those who organised that boat yesterday would have just viewed these people… who passed away, as just a profit-making opportunity,” he told BBC Breakfast.

Analysis

By Simon Jones, BBC News reporter in Dover

Despite yesterday’s deaths in the Channel, the crossings have continued this morning. Around 40 migrants have been brought to Dover by the lifeboat charity the RNLI.

It’s windy on the water and extremely cold – but the determination to get to the UK remains as strong as ever.

The task is now under way to establish the identities of the people who died. That may prove problematic, as many migrants take to the water without any paperwork.

Another key concern is why their boat sank – was it overloaded, was the sea too rough, or could it have been hit by a passing ship?

The French authorities have described the boat as very flimsy.

In previous years, crossings tend to fall dramatically in autumn. That hasn’t happened this year.

That’s because the route has become so lucrative for the people smugglers who charge migrants around £3,000 each to get on a boat.

Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that while the UK and France had agreed more needed to be done, there had been “difficulties” persuading the French “to do things in a way that we think the situation deserves”.

The UK prime minister said he hoped the French would now find a renewed offer of joint patrols along the French Channel coast “acceptable”.

Mr Macron had told Mr Johnson “he was expecting the British to co-operate fully, and that they abstain from instrumentalizing a tragic situation for political purposes”.

Media caption,

BBC Newsnight: Lewis Goodall reports from Dunkirk’s new migrant camp

The UK has pledged to pay France €62.7m (£54m) during 2021-22 to help increase police patrols along its coastline, boost aerial surveillance and increase security infrastructure at ports.

Mr Macron said France would not let the Channel become a “cemetery”. Since the start of 2021, he said, 1,552 smugglers had been arrested in northern France and 44 smuggler networks dismantled.

Despite this, 47,000 attempted Channel crossings to the UK took place this year and 7,800 migrants rescued, Mr Macron added.

It comes as asylum claims made in the UK have risen to the highest level in nearly 20 years, with 37,562 applications in the year to September.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called for a better system based on “compassion, justice and co-operation across frontiers”.

The Dover Strait is the busiest shipping lane in the world and has claimed many lives of people trying to cross in inflatable dinghies.

Record numbers of migrants are making the crossing from France to the UK and it is thought at least 10 other people had died in the past few weeks while attempting to cross.

The International Organization for Migration said Wednesday’s disaster was the worst single loss of life in the Channel since it began collecting data in 2014.

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