UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has vowed to fix the country’s “broken” asylum system after 27 migrants drowned to death in the UK’s worst single loss of life in the English Channel between France and England.
Thousands of migrants and asylum seekers from strife-torn regions such as Somalia, Iraq, Yemen and Libya make perilous journeys on makeshift boats from Calais in France to Dover in England, an issue that has been a major migrant crisis between the British and French authorities. Those who drowned this week in the deadliest tragedy to date included 17 men, seven women – one of whom was pregnant – and three children, according to French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. The French government has made five arrests of suspected human traffickers related to the incident.
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Patel, one of the senior Indian-origin Cabinet ministers in the UK, said: “It serves as the starkest possible reminder of the dangers of these Channel crossings organised by ruthless criminal gangs.
“It is why this government’s New Plan for Immigration will overhaul our broken asylum system and address many of the long-standing pull factors encouraging migrants to make the perilous journey from France to the United Kingdom. We will continue to intensify all cooperation with France and other European partners to prevent migrants embarking on these deadly journeys.”
While two survivors remain in critical condition in a French hospital – one of them is Iraqi and the other Somalian, the identities of those killed in the tragedy are yet to be confirmed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, and both leaders agreed on the urgency of stepping up joint efforts to prevent the deadly crossings and to do everything possible to stop the gangs responsible for putting people’s lives at risk. Johnson noted that the joint efforts of both governments, including UK funding towards the patrols, had so far failed.
“I just want to say that I’m shocked and appalled and deeply saddened by the loss of life at sea in the Channel,” said Johnson.
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“What this shows is that the gangs who are sending people to sea in these dangerous crafts will literally stop at nothing. But what I’m afraid it also shows is that the operation that is being conducted by our friends on the beaches, supported as you know with £54 million from the UK to help patrol the beaches, the technical support we’ve been giving, they haven’t been enough,” he said.
The UK government has indicated the need for its own officials on the ground on the French side of the crossing and tougher measures to show criminal gangs that their “business model” won’t work and stop them getting away with “murder”.