27 people die after boat sinks in Channel - with five women and a girl among victims

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 8:25 am
Updated Thursday, 25th November 2021, 8:25 am

The UK and France have agreed to “keep all options on the table” to stop migrants from crossing the Channel after 27 people died when the boat they were travelling in capsized.

It comes as Boris Johnson called on France to agree to joint police patrols along the French Channel coast.

The Prime Minister and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke on Wednesday (24 November) evening in the wake of the worst incident of its kind in the Channel since the current migrant crisis began.

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Downing Street said they had agreed to “keep all options on the table” in their efforts to break up the human trafficking gangs responsible for putting desperate people at risk in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

The French regional maritime authority said 27 people had died. French officials had previously stated there were 31 deaths but the death toll was revised down, with no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

Could there be joint police patrols along the French coast?

Immigration compliance minister Tom Pursglove confirmed that Mr Johnson had renewed a previous offer to send UK police and Border Force officers to mount joint patrols with the French.

The aim is to prevent migrant boats from attempting the perilous crossing but the French have previously resisted amid concerns about the implications for their national sovereignty.

Mr Pursglove said this incident showed that the two countries needed to deepen their cooperation in dealing with the issue.

He told BBC2’s Newsnight: “The Prime Minister and President Macron have had exactly that discussion this evening. That is something that I am very keen to see happen.

“It is the case that in the past we have offered to host and to help with joint patrols. I think that could be invaluable in helping to address this issue. I really do hope that the French will reconsider that offer.”

Johnson: French operations to stop migrant boats ‘haven’t been enough’

Following a meeting of the Cobra emergencies committee, Mr Johnson said it was clear that French operations to stop the migrant boats leaving “haven’t been enough” despite £54 million of UK support.

He said the people traffickers were “literally getting away with murder” and that he hoped the French would now find the renewed offer of joint patrols “acceptable”.

“We’ve had difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that we think the situation deserves,” he said.

“I understand the difficulties that all countries face, but what we want now is to do more together – and that’s the offer we are making.”

Calais mayor: Johnson needs to ‘face up to his responsibilities’

However the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, said that it was the British who were to blame and called on on Mr Johnson to “face up to his responsibilities”.

“The British Government is to blame. I believe that Boris Johnson has, for the past year and a half, cynically chosen to blame France,” she said, according to French media reports.

Five women and a girl among dead

A joint search and rescue operation by the French and British authorities launched after a fishing boat spotted people in the sea off France was finally called off late on Wednesday.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said the dead included five women and a girl while two survivors had been picked up and were being treated in a French hospital. One of the dead women was later reported to have been pregnant.

Mr Darmanin said the boat which sank had been very flimsy, likening it to “a pool you blow up in your garden”.

The French authorities have arrested four suspected people traffickers in connection with the incident while the regional prosecutor has opened an investigation into aggravated manslaughter.

A version of this article originally appeared on NationalWorld.com