Sunday, December 5, 2021

Channel migrants latest: Arrests over capsized boat as dozens more make journey

Boris Johnson ‘shocked, appalled and deeply saddened’ by migrant deaths

Five arrests have been made in connection with a boat that sunk in the Channel on Wednesday, killing 27 migrants – three children, seven women and 17 men – and causing the deadliest such incident since the current crisis began.

Authorities originally announced that four suspected people smugglers had been arrested, but France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed a fifth arrest on Thursday morning.

Despite the tragic event, which French and British charities have described as a “catastrophe”, around 50 more migrants made the perilous journey across the Channel just hours later. The Independent understands that one RNLI lifeboat arrived to Dover at around 4am with between ten and fifteen people on board, all wearing life jackets and wrapped in blankets. The same boat then went back into the Channel and returned at around 5:30am with around 40 to 50 people.

Boris Johnson has urged his French counterpart to agree to joint police patrols along the French Channel coast, however Calais MP Pierre Henri Dumont signalled this move would not be accepted. “No, that wouldn’t work to monitor all the shore,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, citing sovereignty concerns. “I’m not sure the British people would accept … if the French army was patrolling the British shore.”

Follow our live coverage below


BREAKING: Around 40 migrants make Channel journey after deadly sinking

Around 40 more people made the perilous journey across the Channel on Thursday morning, following the worst migrant tragedy in the area.

A group of people wearing life jackets and wrapped in blankets were seen huddled together on board an RNLI lifeboat before they clambered off onto Dover’s shores. They made the crossing just a day after a dinghy capsized off the coast of Calais, causing 27 deaths.

Despite the tragedy, though, two boats reached UK waters on Thursday morning, according to the BBC.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 09:06


Patel to hold talks with French interior minister this morning

Priti Patel will speak to her French equivalent, Gerald Darmanin, on Thursday morning about next steps the two countries can take to halt small boats crossing the Channel, a Home Office minister has confirmed.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster confirmed the meeting to BBC Breakfast earlier, adding the department’s “heart goes out in terms of those who have lost their lives yesterday and their loved ones”.

“As you know, at least 27 people have died but it is a dynamic situation, the French authorities are investigating and obviously we’re keen to let them get on with their work and we’ve obviously offered any support we can give,” Mr Foster said.

“That is why we are so determined to smash this really evil business model,” Mr Foster told the broadcaster, amid criticism from the French the UK government isn’t doing enough to punish smugglers.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 08:59


BREAKING: Five arrested after Channel migrant boat sinks

Five people have been arrested in connection with the shipwreck that killed at least 27 migrants last night, France’s interior minister has said.

Following Zoe Tidman’s breaking report here:

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 08:43


Immigration charity condemns ‘preventable’ deaths of 27 migrants

An immigration charity has said the deaths of at least 27 migrants on Wednesday should mark a “turning point” in tackling the crisis, echoing remarks made by cross-Channel politicians who have admitted such a deadly incident was inevitable.

Zoe Gardner from the Joint Council of Welfare for Immigrants told BBC Breakfast: “This tragedy was completely predictable, indeed it was predicted and it was completely preventable”.

She added: “This has to be a time for our government to mark a turning point, this tragedy must not be allowed to continue and that means changing our approach, not more of the same failed policies.

“We need to offer people alternatives to the smuggling boats.

“The French are patrolling their own borders insufficiently, it’s absolutely horrendous, those images of the French police standing by while children got onto one of those unsafe vessels are shocking to me.”

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 08:42


MP for Calais suggests UK patrols on French border not solution to crossings

Following my earlier post (8am), here’s Ashley Cowburn with more on remarks made by the MP for Calais.

Pierre-Henri Dumont has suggested a British offer to provide police and border force for joint patrols along the coast of the Channel “wouldn’t work”, as he raised issues around sovereignty.

The politician’s intervention comes after at least 27 people lost their lives attempting to make the treacherous journey across the English Chanel – the worst migrant tragedy in the region in recent history.

After an emergency meeting of the government’s Cobra committee, Boris Johnson said on Wednesday evening that France had previously rejected the offer of practical help from the UK.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 08:31


UK not doing as much as France to punish human traffickers, says French politician

Continuing to blame smugglers for the current migrant crisis, a French politician said this morning heads of human trafficking networks who live comfortably in the UK must be arrested – like they are in France.

Franck Dhersin, vice president of transport for the northern Hauts-de-France region, told French TV station BFMTV: “In France what do we do? We arrest the smugglers…

“To fight them, there’s only one way – we need to stop the organisations, you need to arrest the mafia chiefs.

“And the mafia chiefs live in London… They live in London peacefully, in beautiful villas, they earn hundreds of millions of euros every year, and they reinvest that money in the City.

“And so it’s very easy for the tax authorities to find them”.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 08:27


Port chief admits tragic Channel drowning was expected ‘one day’

The chairman of the ports of Calais and Boulogne has said of Wednesday’s tragic loss of life in the Channel he “thought it would happen one day”.

Jean-Marc Puissesseau told BBC Breakfast he was “personally very, very, very sad” about the deaths of dozens of migrants in the strait between France and England.

“But between us I can tell you, we thought it would happen one day because these people are taking such an enormous risk to get to your country,” he said.

“When they leave their country it’s because they are suffering there and they have only one idea and wish – to get to your country.

“And they are ready to risk their lives, as they did yesterday.”

Mr Puissesseau expressed hope the “enormous problem” of illegal migration via the Channel could be solved by the UK working together with European authorities.

“It’s an enormous problem. It is 20 years that we have migrants coming to Calais with only one wish – get to your country,” he said. “And it’s really time that Europe and the UK together, we try together to solve the problem.”

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 08:21


Calais MP rejects British offer of additional troops in French waters

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports:

Asked what can be done in practical terms to solve the migrant crisis, Pierre Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, I’m not sure that having more police officers… will help to stop these crossings.

“We’ve got 200 or 300km of shore to monitor 24/7 and it only takes five or ten minutes to take a boat and take at sea filled with migrants. I’m not sure it’s only a question about money and the question about the number of men.”

“I’m not sure the British people would accept the other way round if French army was patrolling the British shore.”

He continued: “I see two ways to try to handle this situation. The first one is in France to make sure there are no migrants around the shore…. prior to the shore find these migrants and put them in welcoming centres for them to have a rest, for them to have food, for them to have to have a roof.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 08:00


Child and five women among migrants dead after boat capsizes

The English Channel suffered its worst-ever migrant tragedy on Wednesday after a packed inflatable dinghy sank with the loss of at least 27 lives. (The original figure of 31 is now contested by French authorities, but no explanation has been offered for the discrepancy so far.)

Among those drowned were five women and a young girl, according to French interior minister Gerald Darmanin. He said that two survivors were fighting for their lives while another person appeared to still be missing.

After chairing a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee to discuss the disaster, Boris Johnson declared himself “shocked, appalled and deeply saddened” and offered additional help to Paris to “demolish” people-smuggling gangs which he said were “getting away with murder”.

Andrew Woodcock, Holly Bancroft and Rory Sullivan have more:

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 07:58


French NGO rubbishes claim migrant crisis is due to human traffickers

Maya Konforti, secretary general of the French humanitarian organisation l’Auberge des Migrants, said the sinking of the migrant boat in the Channel last night was a “catastrophe”.

She told French TV channel BFMTV: “We were sure this would happen one day, but up ‘till now… when there have been deaths, it was one or two at a time, but this is a catastrophe.”

She said the NGO was working to identify the bodies, contact the families, organise the funerals and repatriate the bodies.

“When it’s one or two people it’s manageable, but with 31 people, we don’t know how we’re going to do it. It will be very, very complicated and it will also be very, very expensive.”

Ms Konforti also rubbished efforts by the UK government, and France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin, to blame human traffickers, saying “the existence of smugglers is in response to a need – a need because there’s no legal way to go and seek asylum in Britain”.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 07:48


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