At least 31 migrants who were headed towards the United Kingdom died on Wednesday after their boat sank in the English Channel, AP reported. Two persons have survived the accident while one is missing.
The French and the British authorities have been conducting the rescue operation in the English Channel by air and sea. The International Organisation for Migration said it was the biggest loss of life in the English Channel since 2014.
One pregnant woman and three children were among those who died, The Guardian quoted French authorities as saying. Most of the people on the boat were said to be Kurds from Iraq or Iran.
The two persons who survived are from Iraq and Somalia. They are being treated for exhaustion and hypothermia at a hospital in the French city of Calais.
Four persons were arrested on Wednesday on the suspicion of being linked to the sunken boat, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said. Two of them appeared in court.
People who are fleeing conflict in nations like Afghanistan, Sudan and Iraq have been taking the unsafe route from France in carelessly built boats to the United Kingdom to seek better opportunities.
Migrant crossings to the United Kingdom have tripled in 2021 – so far this year 25,700 people have reached the country on small boats, The Guardian reported.
The United Kingdom and France, while have agreed to curb migration across the English Channel, have also accused one another of not doing enough to curb the problem.
On Wednesday, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the French government had not approached the problem of migrant crossings seriously, The Guardian reported.
“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. People trafficking gangs were literally getting away with murder.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said that Johnson’s claims needed to stop politicising the matter for domestic gains.
The United Kingdom’s Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the deaths of the migrants serve 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,” Patel said on Twitter.
She added that the United Kingdom will intensify co-operation with France and other European countries to prevent migrants fro embarking on such journeys.
Refugee charities requested the United Kingdom government to open safe routes for asylum seekers to arrive in the country without taking the sea.
“How many more times must we see people lose their life trying to reach safety in the UK because of the woeful lack of safe means to do so?” said Tom Davies, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights campaign manager. “We desperately need a new approach to asylum – including genuine Anglo-French efforts to devise safe asylum routes to avoid such tragedies happening again.”