By William Hallowell, CP News Reporter.
After 27 migrants drown in the Channel attempting to reach the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tells the French to “step up” as public pressure mounts to tackle the crisis.
Last night (Wednesday), the Prime Minister chaired an emergency Cobra meeting after 27 migrants tragically drowned in the English Channel, including three children and a pregnant woman.
The victims’ dinghy capsized six miles off the coast of Calais after being hit by a large ship, believed to be a cargo ship, according to the regional French paper La Voix du Nord and television station France 3. Among the dead are 17 men, seven women, two boys and a girl.
Boris Johnson said the deaths were “appalling” and “underscored how dangerous” it was to cross the Channel, and admitted that the Government’s efforts to curb the crisis “haven’t been enough”.
The Prime Minister said:
“Our offer is to increase our support but also to work together with our partners on the beaches concerned, on the launching grounds for these boats. That’s something I hope will be acceptable now in view of what has happened.
“We have had difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that the situation deserves. I understand the difficulties that countries face but we want to do more together.”
When the Prime Minister spoke to French President Macron on Wednesday night they agreed that both France and Britain must work together urgently and step up to prevent the migrant crossings, as well as to do everything they can to stop the people smuggling gangs being paid by migrants to facilitate the crossings.
The two leaders also agreed that it is important to work with Belgium and the Netherlands in order to “tackle the problem effectively before people reach the French coast”.
Johnson and Macron will “keep all options on the table to stop these lethal crossings and break the business model of the criminal gangs behind them”.
Recently, the Government announced that it is paying £54m in instalments to the French to help tackle the problem – since then, the French have banned the sale of dinghies from their ports.
On Thursday, Sir Keir Starmer said:
“It is a heartbreaking tragedy, particularly to see desperate people get into flimsy boats including children so it is a very human reaction to this.
“I’m glad there’s been arrests today, but I’m frustrated – as a former prosecutor I take a lot of persuading that those arrests could not have been made last week or the week before.
“So there’s a lot of serious questions to ask. We have got to improve our law enforcement here because people smugglers, traffickers have got a real hold on these desperate people. We have got to break that.”
The Labour leader also claimed that Home Secretary, Priti Patel, “makes no end of headline-grabbing statements”, but “isn’t doing anything to deal with this effectively”.
He has also called for a long-term strategy with better support for migrants and “safer and legal routes for those that are entitled to claim asylum”.
Labour MP, Lilian Greenwood, also pressed the Home Secretary in the Commons over the Government’s Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme.
Ms Greenwood said:
“We still don’t know when the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme will be operational or how those who are outside of the UK will be able to access it. Please can the Home Secretary tell us today?”
Ms Patel responded: “With Operation Pitting, we evacuated 15,000 people. We are still in the process of trying to resettle them and in terms of resettling more people from Afghanistan, I know the cases are coming through.
“We are trying to make sure we can bring people forward, that we can get them settled rather than what we have seen sadly… being put into hotels, inadequate accommodation, and we need them in the community”.
As this crisis continues to unfold, asylum claims in the UK are at a 20 year high.