Thirty-one migrants perish trying to cross Channel to Britain By Reuters

© Reuters. A life jacket is left after a gaggle of migrants bought on an inflatable dinghy, to go away the coast of northern France and to cross the English Channel, close to Wimereux, France, November 24, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

By Geert De Clercq and Ingrid Melander

PARIS (Reuters) -Thirty-one folks, together with 5 girls and a bit woman, died on Wednesday after their rubber boat capsized whereas crossing the English Channel from France to Britain, within the worst catastrophe on file involving migrants within the waters separating the international locations.

The Channel is among the world’s busiest delivery lanes and currents are sturdy. Overloaded dinghies typically barely keep afloat and are on the mercy of waves as they fight to attain British shores.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin mentioned 34 folks had been onboard, of whom 31 died, two have been rescued and one was nonetheless lacking.

“There are two survivors … but their life is in danger, they are suffering from severe hypothermia,” he mentioned.

The nationalities and identities of the migrants weren’t identified, Darmanin mentioned, including that 4 human traffickers suspected of involvement within the accident had been arrested.

French President Emmanuel Macron mentioned that European Union border company Frontex ought to get extra monetary means to defend the EU’s exterior borders and stop the arrival of extra migrants on France’s northern shores.

He additionally referred to as for an emergency assembly of European ministers to talk about the issue.

“France will not let the Channel become a graveyard,” Macron mentioned.

More migrants than ordinary had left France’s Channel shoreline to make the most of calm sea situations on Wednesday, in accordance to fishermen, though the water was bitterly chilly.

One fisherman, Nicolas Margolle, instructed Reuters he had seen two small dinghies earlier on Wednesday, one with folks on board and one other empty.

He mentioned one other fisherman had referred to as rescue providers after seeing an empty dinghy and 15 folks floating immobile close by, both unconscious or useless.

Darmanin mentioned the migrants’ dinghy had deflated, and when rescuers had arrived it was “deflated like an inflatable garden pool.”

While French police have prevented extra crossings than in earlier years, they’ve solely partially stemmed the move of migrants wanting to attain Britain – certainly one of many sources of tensions between Paris and London.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson mentioned he was “shocked and appalled” by the deaths.

“My thoughts and sympathies are with the victims and their families … but this disaster underscores how dangerous it is to cross the Channel in this way,” he mentioned after chairing an emergency Cabinet assembly.

Though each governments blamed smugglers, plenty of French politicians, together with Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart blamed Britain for the issue, saying it ought to change its immigration insurance policies.

Some rights teams mentioned tighter surveillance was pushing migrants to take better dangers as they sought a greater life within the West.

“To accuse only the smugglers is to hide the responsibility of the French and British authorities,” mentioned l’Auberge des Migrants, an advocacy group that helps refugees and displaced folks.

Before Wednesday’s catastrophe, 14 folks had drowned this yr trying to make it to Britain, a native maritime prefecture official mentioned. In 2020, a complete of seven folks died and two disappeared, whereas in 2019 4 died.

Early on Wednesday, Reuters reporters in France noticed a gaggle of over 40 migrants head in the direction of Britain on a dinghy. Members of the identical group have been later seen by Reuters reporters arriving on the British coast.

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