Channel deaths: Three children among 27 who died near Calais – as another body found on beach and picture emerges of flimsy dinghy

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, on board the Dover lifeboat, following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Saturday November 20, 2021.

2021-11-25 12:25:00

Authorities say the 27 people who died trying to cross the Channel included 17 men, seven women, two teenage boys and a girl.

It comes as police said an adult male had been found on a beach in between Calais and Sangatte. However, it is not known if it’s connected to Wednesday’s tragedy.

A picture of the flimsy boat used by the group has also emerged – the picture was supplied to Sky News by a lifeboat captain.

This is what remains of the boat that capsized in the Channel and resulted in the deaths of 27 people
This is what remains of the boat that capsized in the Channel and resulted in the deaths of 27 people

Following the deadliest day of the migrant crisis, French interior minister Gerard Darmanin accused Britain of handling the crisis badly.

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Pregnant woman among the dead

He also said other countries such as Belgium and Germany could do more to help France tackle illegal migrants and human trafficking.

Pregnant woman among the dead amid fears smugglers will continue trafficking in the coming weeks – live updates

French President Emmanuel Macron called for “stronger” European co-operation and said security forces are working “day and night” to try to stop the crossings.

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Migrants promised ‘El Dorado’ in England – French interior minister

However, he said by the time migrants are on the coastline it is “already too late”.

In an interview with radio station RTL, Mr Darmanin said migrants are “often attracted” to the UK jobs market and blamed human trafficking gangs who promise the “El Dorado of England”.

He did not give information about the victims’ nationalities, but said the two survivors were Somali and Iraqi and had been treated for severe hypothermia.

Mr Darmanin also said a fifth suspected people trafficker was arrested overnight and that the boat was bought in Germany.

Speaking in Calais last night, shortly after the incident, he described it as extremely flimsy and likened it to “a pool you blow up in your garden”.

“Those responsible for the tragedy which took place yesterday in the Channel are the smugglers, who for a few thousand euros promise El Dorado in England. The smugglers are criminals, this tragedy reminds us, painfully,” he told RTL.

“It’s an international problem… We tell our Belgian, German and British friends they should help us fight traffickers that work at an international level,” Mr Darmanin added.

Another group of around 60 migrants – some of them in lifejackets – were transferred to buses at Calais train station on Thursday morning.

“Have these deaths changed your mind about getting to Britain?” Sky’s Europe correspondent Adam Parsons asked one man. “No, no,” he replied.

Parsons said: “Even in the wake of that appalling tragedy yesterday there is still an appetite for people to try to get from here in mainland France, over to the shores of the UK…

“And when you ask them why, they tell you that if they go through the official lines they don’t have any confidence that they will ever get the opportunity to reach the UK.

“They think they have no choice but to use people smugglers.”

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French forces ‘are mobilised day and night’

Most of those attempting to cross the Channel have been helped by organised networks of people smugglers.

Sky News spoke to one in northern Iraq who said he has packed flimsy boats with dozens of people trying to reach Britain – aware that some wouldn’t survive.

Franck Dhersin, vice president of transport for the northern Hauts-de-France region, told France’s BFM TV that heads of human trafficking networks who live comfortable lives in the UK must be arrested.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

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Migrant crossings – what does the data show?

An image of two-year-old Alan Kurdi, who died in the Mediterranean while fleeing Syria in 2015, shocked the world and raised awareness of desperate families fleeing conflict and poverty.

But the route to mainland Europe and the UK is as dangerous as it was then.

Asked if the latest tragedy could be a turning point, Steve Valdez-Symonds of Amnesty UK told Sky News he had “little confidence” it would be.

He pointed to the deaths of 39 migrants whose bodies were discovered in a lorry in Essex in 2019 and said it was not the journey that was the issue – but the needs of the people on it.

Policing illegal routes to the UK is not sufficient on its own, he said. “Smugglers will continue to find new routes.”

He said this approach often “pushes people to do more and more dangerous things to find the safety they need”.

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French politician Bruno Bonnell said there are many reasons people are attracted to the UK.

“First the language, a lot of people have a basic understanding of English and they find it more comfortable finding a job there,” he told Sky News.

“Plus they have heard from sources that the conditions are better,” added the MP for Rhone.

Those who claim asylum in the UK are not normally allowed to work while their claim is being considered.

They are instead provided with accommodation and support to meet essential living needs.

The Home Office may grant permission to work to people whose claim has been outstanding for more than 12 months through no fault of their own.

Under this policy, those who are allowed to work are restricted to jobs on the shortage occupation list, which includes health services and science and engineering.

27 people died crossing the Channel on Wednesday
27 people died crossing the Channel on Wednesday

The Dover Strait is the world’s busiest shipping lane and more than 25,700 people have completed the dangerous journey to the UK this year.

That’s three times the total for 2020, according to data compiled by PA news agency.

The numbers have prompted some critics to blame Brexit, while those in support of leaving the EU have questioned whether the UK has taken back its borders.

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Migrant boat traced to Rotterdam shipyard

In a statement to MPs, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the deaths were a “dreadful shock” but “not a surprise”.

She said there was “no quick fix” to such a “complicated issue”.

“This is about addressing long-term pull factors, smashing the criminal gangs that treat human beings as cargo and tackling supply chains,” she said.

More than 20,000 migrants have been stopped this year, 17 criminal groups dismantled and around 400 arrests and 65 convictions secured.

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Patel: ‘No quick fix’ over channel crossings

“It does need a Herculean effort and it will be impossible without close cooperation between all international partners and agencies,” she said.

The home secretary said it was a “complete myth and fallacy” to suggest the UK should not look at all options, including stopping boats entering its territorial waters.

“We are not working to end these crossings because we don’t care or are heartless,” she said, adding that the UK has a “clear, generous and a humane approach” to dealing with the issue.

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How does the UK handle immigration?

The issue has become an increasingly tense subject for the UK and France, and each side has been blaming the other.

The government has accused the French of not stepping up patrols enough, despite giving them millions in extra funding to deal with the problem.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to Mr Macron last night and Downing Street said they had agreed to “keep all options on the table”.

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Arrests should be made before tragedies – Starmer

Mr Johnson offered to host and to help with joint patrols, while Mr Macron has called for an emergency meeting of European ministers and an “immediate strengthening” of Frontex, the EU’s border agency.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called it a “human and heartbreaking tragedy”.

He said he was frustrated the arrests of the people smugglers had not been made before the deaths, and that there a “lot of serious questions to be asked”.

Sir Keir said effective action alongside French authorities and a long-term strategy was vital to tackling the crisis.

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