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at least thirty-one migrants died in the sinking of a boat

The Channel was particularly deadly, Wednesday, November 24, while at least thirty-one migrants died in the sinking of their boat, off Calais, according to a latest assessment drawn up by President Emmanuel Macron. It’s about « Worst accident », according to the maritime prefecture of the English 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.

« France will not let the English Channel become a cemetery », declared, Wednesday evening, Emmanuel Macron, also asking « Immediate reinforcement » of Frontex as well as an emergency European meeting. Revising upwards the initial death toll of twenty-seven, drawn up by the police, Mr. Macron promised to « Find and condemn those responsible ».

Arrived on site in the early evening, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, also announced the arrest of four people suspected of being « Directly linked » with the sinking, calling for a « Very harsh international response ». An interministerial meeting is scheduled for Thursday morning around the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, who regretted a « Tragedy ».

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For his part, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday « Shocked, revolted and deeply saddened » by the accident. « We had difficulties persuading some of our partners, in particular the French, to act up to the situation, but I understand the difficulties that all countries are facing », he told Sky News after an interministerial meeting. « I tell our partners from across the Channel that the time has come for all of us to mobilize, to work together to do all we can to break these gangs », he added.

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 National Navy recovered several bodies, including five dead people and five unconscious, according to a provisional report ”, detailed the Ministry of the Interior. According to a source close to the file, 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 ».

The drama unfolded on a « Long boat », a fragile inflatable boat, whose flexible bottom tends to fold up when it takes on water and is overloaded, we learned from rescuers. The use of these particularly dangerous and poor quality boats has become more and more frequent since this summer. “People are dying in the English Channel, 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.

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« What happened is a horrible drama », also declared the director general of the French Immigration Office, Didier Leschi. He denounced the smugglers « Who try, at all costs, to maintain camps near the sea to facilitate the morbid work of making migrants cross the Channel at their own risk ».

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. 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 which 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 have 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.

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