Boris Johnson Calls for Joint Patrols Along French Coast After Tragic Migrant Deaths in Channel
06:52 GMT 25.11.2021 (Updated: 07:22 GMT 25.11.2021)
At least 27 migrants attempting to reach Britain’s shores died on 24 November when their inflatable dinghy sank in the English Channel, among them five women, one pregnant, and a girl, in the deadliest day of the ongoing English Channel crisis.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the UK was prepared to provide more support to France to patrol its northern beaches to prevent boats packed with migrants setting off across the English Chanel
“That’s something I hope will be acceptable now in the view of what has happened,” he said.
He also highlighted how efforts by French authorities to patrol their beaches “haven’t been enough”, according to British media reports.
The Prime Minister spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron
over the phone on Wednesday evening in the wake of the tragic death of at least 27 migrants, including five women and a young girl, after their dinghy sank in the Channel.
Thirty-four people are believed to have packed the boat when it set off. According to the French interior ministry, patrol vessels discovered corpses and people unconscious in the water after a fisherman had sounded the alarm about the capsized boat. Two rescued people were hospitalized with severe hypothermia.
The UK and France agreed to “keep all options on the table” in efforts to crack down on human trafficking gangs which they blamed for putting desperate people at risk, stated Downing Street. The two leaders are said to have underscored the importance of working closely with Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as other countries across the European continent.
French president Emmanuel Macron stressed “the shared responsibility” of the two countries in dealing with the crisis
, telling Boris Johnson the situation should not be used “for political purposes”, according to the Élysée Palace. Macron also called for an emergency meeting of European government ministers and more funding for the EU’s border agency, Frontex.
“France will not let the Channel become a cemetery,” said Macron.
The French interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, who gave an impromptu news conference in Calais, said the boat involved in the tragic incident had been "very frail", likening it to "a pool you blow up in your garden".
Darmanin said that on Wednesday there had been 780 police officers watching the coastline, with 671 migrants arrested but over 250 people making the crossing.
“It was therefore a day like any other, unfortunately,” he said, as he reiterated that efforts to address the crisis ought to be coordinated with the UK, insisting that “the response must also come from Great Britain”.
Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart slammed the British side and called on 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.
French Patrols ‘Not Enough’
Later on Wednesday, Immigration Compliance minister Tom Pursglove confirmed that the PM had renewed the proposal for joint patrols with the French side.
Paris has been reluctant
to get on board with the proposal, citing concerns about their national sovereignty.
“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,” Pursglove said on BBC2’s Newsnight.
Three helicopters and three boats took part in the search for migrants from the capsized dinghy. French prosecutors have opened a manslaughter probe and four people suspected of being linked to the drownings having been arrested, according to reports.
PM Boris Johnson, who held a Cobra meeting on Wednesday, said he was “appalled” by the tragic loss of life. After the meeting, the PM said it was obvious that French patrols "haven't been enough", despite £54 million in UK support for the purpose.
“We’ve had difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that we think the situation deserves. 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,” Johnson told reporters.
The UK House of Commons is set to hold a debate on “the numbers of migrants arriving in the United Kingdom illegally by boat” on Thursday, according to a parliamentary schedule cited by The Guardian.
Over 25,700 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats this year, which is three times the total for the entire 2020.