In the deadliest drowning since 2014, at least 27 migrants and asylum seekers who were headed to England tragically died on Wednesday after their boat capsized in the English Channel.
A joint rescue operation by British and French authorities is underway to find the other missing people. Earlier it was claimed that 31 people have died, however, the number was later revised. Reportedly two people have survived while one is still missing.
French Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin, said: “Four persons have been arrested by police on the suspicion of being linked to the boat sinking. They were arrested on Wednesday and two of them appeared in court. The nationalities of the deceased are not known yet.
“It’s a day of great mourning for France, for Europe, for humanity to see these people die at sea.”
A maritime spokesperson said they quickly responded to a call from a fishing vessel, which had seen motionless bodies floating around a deflated boat.
The number of migrants and asylum seekers reaching the UK has tripled in 2021. Official figures say more than 25,700 people have already made their way to England, most of them using small boats for traveling.
Most of the refugees who reach Europe and the UK are from conflict-ridden Muslim-majority countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Sudan.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron following the incident in the Channel. A statement by PM’s office read: “The two agreed on the urgency of stepping up joint efforts to prevent these deadly crossings and to do everything possible to stop the gangs responsible for putting people’s lives at risk.
“Both leaders were clear that today’s tragic loss of life was a stark reminder that it is vital to keep all options on the table to stop these lethal crossings and break the business model of the criminal gangs behind them.”
The Prime Minister added: “We have 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.”
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has called the incident the largest single loss of life in the Channel since 2014, which is the year the organisation started collecting data.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex in a tweet said: “My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and misery.”
Refugee charities, rights groups and activists have appealed to the government to open proper channels for migrants to apply for asylum so that incidents like these can be avoided.
Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights campaign manager, Tom Davies, said: “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?
“We desperately need a new approach to asylum, including genuine Anglo-French efforts to devise safe asylum routes to avoid such tragedies happening again.”