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Channel migrant crossing - latest: UK officials head to France as PM sets out five urgent steps to ease crisis

·37-min read
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UK government officials and law enforcement are preparing to head to France for talks amid the migrant crossing crisis.

Reports differ as to whether they are travelling there this evening or tomorrow.

Home secretary Priti Patel is set to travel to France on Sunday for discussions after at least 27 people died yesterday crossing the English Channel on a flimsy overcrowded dinghy that capsized.

Boris Johnson has urged his French counterpart to work with the UK on five steps to ease the migrant crisis – including the “swift” return of asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats.

He called on French president Emmanuel Macron to help establish “joint patrols to prevent more boats from leaving French beaches”.

The PM also urged him to help deploy “more advanced technology, like sensors and radar” and – the third step – “airborne surveillance”.

Mr Johnson called for “better real-time intelligence-sharing to deliver more arrests and prosecutions on both sides of the Channel”

The fifth step he outlined in a post on Twitter was to work on “a bilateral returns agreement with France, alongside talks to establish a UK-EU returns agreement” to return migrants who cross the Channel in dinghys and small boats.

He said this would “immediately” and “significantly” reduce the numbers of people who “put their lives in the hands of traffickers”.

Follow our live coverage below

Read More

Child and five women among 31 migrants dead after boat sinks in deadliest Channel tragedy

Each and every death in the Channel is a human tragedy

Will the migrant boat disaster force the government to change its approach to Channel crossings?

Key Points

  • Patel tells Commons repeated offer of joint patrols made to France

  • Five arrested after Channel migrant boat sinks, killing 27...

  • ...as around 50 more people make perilous journey following incident

  • Candlelit vigil held in Calais for drowned migrants

  • Man’s body found washed up on beach near Calais

  • Reverend issues reminder migrants ‘are not the criminals’

Good morning

07:41 , Sam Hancock

Hello, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage on the Channel migrant crisis. Stay tuned as we bring you the latest updates after a boat sunk last night, killing dozens of people desperately seeking a new life in Britain.

UK implores Macron to accept offer of British patrols in French waters

07:47 , Sam Hancock

Following conversations last night, Boris Johnson and French president Emmanuel Macron have committed to “keeping all options on the table” in their efforts to break up the human trafficking gangs – which they consider the route cause of the issue – responsible for putting desperate migrants at risk in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

Immigration compliance minister Tom Pursglove confirmed that the PM had renewed a previous offer to send UK police and Border Force officers to mount joint patrols with the French.

The aim is to prevent migrant boats from attempting the perilous crossing, however the French have previously resisted the suggestion amid concerns about the implications for their national sovereignty.

Mr Pursglove said, however, the last incident showed the two countries needed to deepen their cooperation in dealing with the issue.

“The prime minister and President Macron have had exactly that discussion this evening. That is something that I am very keen to see happen,” he told BBC2’s Newsnight.

“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.”

Remarks from various French officials this morning, however, suggest the EU nation will not accept such a move.

French NGO rubbishes claim migrant crisis is due to human traffickers

07:48 , Sam Hancock

Maya Konforti, secretary general of the French humanitarian organisation l’Auberge des Migrants, said the sinking of the migrant boat in the Channel last night was a “catastrophe”.

She told French TV channel BFMTV: “We were sure this would happen one day, but up ‘till now... when there have been deaths, it was one or two at a time, but this is a catastrophe.”

She said the NGO was working to identify the bodies, contact the families, organise the funerals and repatriate the bodies.

“When it’s one or two people it’s manageable, but with 31 people, we don’t know how we’re going to do it. It will be very, very complicated and it will also be very, very expensive.”

Ms Konforti also rubbished efforts by the UK government, and France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin, to blame human traffickers, saying “the existence of smugglers is in response to a need – a need because there’s no legal way to go and seek asylum in Britain”.

Child and five women among migrants dead after boat capsizes

07:58 , Sam Hancock

The English Channel suffered its worst-ever migrant tragedy on Wednesday after a packed inflatable dinghy sank with the loss of at least 27 lives. (The original figure of 31 is now contested by French authorities, but no explanation has been offered for the discrepancy so far.)

Among those drowned were five women and a young girl, according to French interior minister Gerald Darmanin. He said that two survivors were fighting for their lives while another person appeared to still be missing.

After chairing a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee to discuss the disaster, Boris Johnson declared himself “shocked, appalled and deeply saddened” and offered additional help to Paris to “demolish” people-smuggling gangs which he said were “getting away with murder”.

Andrew Woodcock, Holly Bancroft and Rory Sullivan have more:

Child and five women among 31 migrants dead after boat sinks in English Channel

Calais MP rejects British offer of additional troops in French waters

08:00 , Sam Hancock

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports:

Asked what can be done in practical terms to solve the migrant crisis, Pierre Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, I’m not sure that having more police officers… will help to stop these crossings.

“We’ve got 200 or 300km of shore to monitor 24/7 and it only takes five or ten minutes to take a boat and take at sea filled with migrants. I’m not sure it’s only a question about money and the question about the number of men.”

After calls from the British government to France to accept UK police and border officers, he added: “No, that wouldn’t work to monitor all the shore… there is also a question of sovereignty.

“I’m not sure the British people would accept the other way round if French army was patrolling the British shore.”

He continued: “I see two ways to try to handle this situation. The first one is in France to make sure there are no migrants around the shore.... prior to the shore find these migrants and put them in welcoming centres for them to have a rest, for them to have food, for them to have to have a roof.

Port chief admits tragic Channel drowning was expected ‘one day’

08:21 , Sam Hancock

The chairman of the ports of Calais and Boulogne has said of Wednesday’s tragic loss of life in the Channel he “thought it would happen one day”.

Jean-Marc Puissesseau told BBC Breakfast he was “personally very, very, very sad” about the deaths of dozens of migrants in the strait between France and England.

“But between us I can tell you, we thought it would happen one day because these people are taking such an enormous risk to get to your country,” he said.

“When they leave their country it’s because they are suffering there and they have only one idea and wish - to get to your country.

“And they are ready to risk their lives, as they did yesterday.”

Mr Puissesseau expressed hope the “enormous problem” of illegal migration via the Channel could be solved by the UK working together with European authorities.

“It’s an enormous problem. It is 20 years that we have migrants coming to Calais with only one wish - get to your country,” he said. “And it’s really time that Europe and the UK together, we try together to solve the problem.”

UK not doing as much as France to punish human traffickers, says French politician

08:27 , Sam Hancock

Continuing to blame smugglers for the current migrant crisis, a French politician said this morning heads of human trafficking networks who live comfortably in the UK must be arrested – like they are in France.

Franck Dhersin, vice president of transport for the northern Hauts-de-France region, told French TV station BFMTV: “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.

“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”.

Home secretary Priti Patel’s messaging around the crisis has been to blame smugglers entirely, however various human rights groups say it is because of Ms Patel’s unworkable asylum and migrant system in the UK that smuggling operations even exist.

MP for Calais suggests UK patrols on French border not solution to crossings

08:31 , Sam Hancock

Following my earlier post (8am), here’s Ashley Cowburn with more on remarks made by the MP for Calais.

Pierre-Henri Dumont has suggested a British offer to provide police and border force for joint patrols along the coast of the Channel “wouldn’t work”, as he raised issues around sovereignty.

The politician's intervention comes after at least 27 people lost their lives attempting to make the treacherous journey across the English Chanel – the worst migrant tragedy in the region in recent history.

After an emergency meeting of the government’s Cobra committee, Boris Johnson said on Wednesday evening that France had previously rejected the offer of practical help from the UK.

MP for Calais suggests UK patrols on French border not solution to migrant crossings

Immigration charity condemns ‘preventable’ deaths of 27 migrants

08:42 , Sam Hancock

An immigration charity has said the deaths of at least 27 migrants on Wednesday should mark a “turning point” in tackling the crisis, echoing remarks made by cross-Channel politicians who have admitted such a deadly incident was inevitable.

Zoe Gardner from the Joint Council of Welfare for Immigrants told BBC Breakfast: “This tragedy was completely predictable, indeed it was predicted and it was completely preventable”.

She added: “This has to be a time for our government to mark a turning point, this tragedy must not be allowed to continue and that means changing our approach, not more of the same failed policies.

“We need to offer people alternatives to the smuggling boats.

“The French are patrolling their own borders insufficiently, it’s absolutely horrendous, those images of the French police standing by while children got onto one of those unsafe vessels are shocking to me.”

BREAKING: Five arrested after Channel migrant boat sinks

08:43 , Sam Hancock

Five people have been arrested in connection with the shipwreck that killed at least 27 migrants last night, France’s interior minister has said.

Following Zoe Tidman’s breaking report here:

Five arrested after Channel migrant boat sinks, killing at least 27

Patel to hold talks with French interior minister this morning

08:59 , Sam Hancock

Priti Patel will speak to her French equivalent, Gerald Darmanin, on Thursday morning about next steps the two countries can take to halt small boats crossing the Channel, a Home Office minister has confirmed.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster confirmed the meeting to BBC Breakfast earlier, adding the department’s “heart goes out in terms of those who have lost their lives yesterday and their loved ones”.

“As you know, at least 27 people have died but it is a dynamic situation, the French authorities are investigating and obviously we’re keen to let them get on with their work and we’ve obviously offered any support we can give,” Mr Foster said.

He added that the “real sad part” of this is “those who organised that boat yesterday would have just viewed these people, 27 at least who passed away, as just a profit-making opportunity”.

“That is why we are so determined to smash this really evil business model,” Mr Foster told the broadcaster, amid criticism from the French the UK government isn’t doing enough to punish smugglers.

BREAKING: Around 40 migrants make Channel journey after deadly sinking

09:06 , Sam Hancock

Around 40 more people made the perilous journey across the Channel on Thursday morning, following the worst migrant tragedy in the area.

A group of people wearing life jackets and wrapped in blankets were seen huddled together on board an RNLI lifeboat before they clambered off onto Dover’s shores. They made the crossing just a day after a dinghy capsized off the coast of Calais, causing 27 deaths.

Despite the tragedy, though, two boats reached UK waters on Thursday morning, according to the BBC.

Holly Bancroft has more:

Around 40 people cross Channel after deadly boat sinking

Dover MP appears to blame French police inaction for migrant deaths

09:39 , Sam Hancock

The MP for Dover has called for increased patrols on the beaches of France to stop migrants crossing the Channel.

Speaking to the BBC this morning, Natalie Elphicke said she wanted “urgent and swift action” to tackle the crisis, blaming the French for doing “absolutely nothing”.

“Yesterday we saw footage of French police standing by while people got the boat ready, picked up the engine and took to the water on the French side,” she said, adding: “That’s unacceptable and that’s got to change.”

She added:

“The British are standing by willing to put people to help, the EU I’m sure will come to the French’s aid as well, this is a humanitarian crisis on the shores of France, these people smugglers must not be allowed to continue to ply their trade and put people’s lives at risk in these wintry seas

“It is vital that action’s taken and the only way to do that is to stop people on the beaches of France from getting into the boats and turning them around quickly in French waters.”

Boat which sank in Channel may have been struck by container ship

09:41 , Sam Hancock

The “floating death trap” boat which sank in the English Channel with the loss of 27 UK-bound migrants, including a pregnant woman, was hit by a container ship, rescuers fear.

Horrific details of the disaster began to emerge on Thursday, as four people smugglers who are alleged to have organised Wednesday’s fatal crossing were placed in custody facing manslaughter charges.

Just two men escaped from the inflatable craft which mainly contained so far unidentified Iraqi Kurds and Somalians who had paid the equivalent of up to £6,000 each for a passage to England, reports Peter Allen in Paris.

Boat which sank in Channel may have been struck by container ship

Patel to make Commons announcement on migrant deaths

09:48 , Sam Hancock

Home secretary Priti Patel will give a statement to MPs on the deaths of migrants trying to cross the Channel, the House of Commons has said.

A time has not yet been confirmed for the address, but it is thought it will take place at around 10.30 when urgent questions are scheduled to take place in the chamber.

Charity: ‘By ending safe routes in, UK has created a small boat spectacle’

10:18 , Sam Hancock

The government is being accused of worsening the current Channel migrant crisis by blocking safe routes into Britain, which one charity says has “created a spectacle” around small boat crossings.

“I think everyone in the UK is absolutely fed up with dangerous boat crossings,” Bella Sankey, director of human rights group Detention Action, told Sky News this morning. “No one think thinks it is sustainable ... and it is very internationally embarrassing.”

She pointed to Covid disruption and Priti Patel’s harsh migrant policies as reasons for the increasing number of people using small boats to enter Britain, stressing the figures are not a new issue but rather the methods of travel are.

“We in Britain accepted just under 30,000 asylum applications last year,” Ms Sankey said. “France, 90,000 and Germany, 122,000.

“So, yes the problem has been blown out of proportion because by ending safe routes [into Britain], the government has created a kind of spectacle and a disaster around small boats ... and people are understandably worried.”

Taking aim at Boris Johnson, she added: “The government can end all this at the stroke of a pen if it really wanted to.”

Charities worry about ‘unsettled’ migrants in Calais

10:23 , Sam Hancock

Our reporter Zoe Tidman is in Calais, speaking to refugees and charities to get their reaction to yesterday’s events.

She writes:

Charlie Chappers from Mobile Refugee Support tells The Independent the boat [that sunk] was full of people from the community his charity – mainly based in Dunkirk – works with closely.

“We are expecting them to be very unsettled today,” he said.

BREAKING: Asylum applications rise by a fifth in year amid small boat crossings

10:24 , Sam Hancock

Asylum applications to the UK have risen by a fifth in a year amid record small boat crossings, new figures show.

A Home Office report said there were more than 37,500 applications in the year to September, relating to 44,000 men, women and children mainly from Iran, Eritrea, Albania, Iraq and Syria.

“The increase in applications is likely linked in part, to the easing of global travel restrictions that were in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to an increase in small boat arrivals to the UK - of which almost all claim asylum,” it added.

Our home affairs correspondent Lizzie Dearden has more:

Asylum applications rise by a fifth in year amid record Channel crossings

Watch: Immigration minister speaks about dangers of Channel crossings

10:31 , Sam Hancock

UK must arrest people-trafficking ‘mafia chiefs’, says French official

10:47 , Sam Hancock

Following my earlier post (8.27am), here’s Adam Forrest with more on remarks made by a leading French politician about what UK authorities must do to ensure more heads of human trafficking networks living in London are arrested.

Wheile Boris Johnson has called on France to allow joint patrols along the French coast to crack down on small boat crossings, some French officials have pointed the finger at British officials for failing to tackle the “mafia chiefs” behind people-smuggling operations – suggesting tax authorities could do more.

“To fight them, there’s only one way – we need to stop the organisations, you need to arrest the mafia chiefs. And the mafia chiefs live in London,” Franck Dhersin, vice president of transport for the northern Hauts-de-France region, said.

UK must arrest people-trafficking ‘mafia chiefs’ in London, says French official

Macron urges PM not to use migrant crisis as means of accessing French waters

10:59 , Sam Hancock

Britain is being urged not to take advantage of the migrant crisis, and 27 deaths last night, by trying to use it as means for “political” ends.

Emmanuel Macron is said to have “made it known” to the PM last night “that he expected the British to cooperate fully and that they [should] refrain from instrumentalizing a dramatic situation for political ends ,” the Elysee said on Thursday.

It comes amid an offer from the UK to send police and British border officials into French waters to coordinate efforts to stop migrant boats crossing the Channel to Britain – a suggestion Calais’ MP deemed “crazy” this morning and signalled would not happen.

Mr Macron had previously rejected the offer, claiming it might infringe his country’s sovereignty.

“The [French] president insisted on the need to act with dignity, respect and in a spirit of effective cooperation when it comes to human lives”, the Elysee added in its statement.

Mr Macron also assured his government and people that “France will not let the Channel become a cemetery” and demanded “an emergency meeting of European ministers”, according to Le Monde newspaper.

Watch: Why are so many migrants crossing in small boats?

11:13 , Sam Hancock

‘Tragedy we feared’: What French papers said about Channel disaster

11:20 , Sam Hancock

Last night’s tragedy in the Channel led the front pages and news websites in France on Thursday morning, with many reporting the president’s comments that “France will not let the Channel become a cemetery”.

Leading national French newspaper, Le Monde, reported on the outrage from activists who gathered in the port of Calais and watched as emergency services carried the bodies of the victims to shore. One person carried a sign saying: “How many deaths will you need?” and Alexine Fougner, who has been helping migrants living in nearby camps, told the paper: “When we say that borders kill, that’s really it.”

Another activist, Olivier Maillard, referred to the small gathering at the port and said “empathy is running out in this country”. He added: “They were men, women, children, humans. We would be 5,000 tonight and we are 50.”

The paper reported that most of the victims were Kurdish, from Iraq or Iran. They noted Emmanuel Macron’s comments about not letting the Channel become a cemetery, saying: “Actually, it’s already become one.”

Holly Bancroft reports:

What the French papers said about the Channel disaster

Rees-Mogg condemns ‘evil’ people smugglers in Commons

11:50 , Sam Hancock

Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, has mentioned the migrant crisis in his weekly update to the chamber - going with the popular government line that ministers must deal with the “evil” of people traffickers.

He said the criminal are “entirely unconcerned about human life” and they must be stopped in order to reduce the number of deaths caused by small boat crossings.

Mr Rees-Mogg referred to the “terrible situation in the Channel yesterday” as he took questions from MPs.

He said: “The priority of the government must be to prevent deaths and to take every step possible to do that. The main way to stop it is to stop the boats setting off, that must be the priority and it is why the government has offered to help the French in any way that we can to stop those boats launching.”

Mr Rees-Mogg added: “The evil of what happens is the people traffickers, the people smugglers, who take large amounts of money to put people on unsafe boats to push them out to sea at the risk of their lives entirely unconcerned about human life, and we must deal with them and make their business model fail and that way we will save lives.

“I did announce that the Borders Bill will be coming back and I hope that the Opposition will seriously consider supporting those many measures and supporting the third reading, which will help us ensure safer borders.”

The shadow Commons leader responded in due course.

Open safe and legal routes to UK and tackle traffickers, Labour urges Patel

11:54 , Sam Hancock

Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire said the capsized migrant boat on Wednesday should be viewed by the government as a “poignant wake up call” to deal with small boat crossings.

“This tragedy reminds us of the risk to life in these perilous waters,” the shadow Commons leader told MPs, adding: “For some of us we are already wondering if they are relatives of our constituents who have been trying to be reunited with them and that is quite hard to take.”

Ms Debbonaire urged the government “to act to take this matter seriously to prevent people from dying in these dangerous waters”, before issuing Priti Patel some words of advice.

“Safe and legal routes, tackling the traffickers, reversing the cut on overseas aid, working constructively with our overseas partners, these are four things the government could and should be doing today,” she said, “and I very much hope they are part of what the home secretary speaks about in her remarks later this morning.”

Image of deflated boat carrying 27 migrants who died shared online - report

12:15 , Sam Hancock

A picture of what is being described as what’s left of the boat involved in the death of 27 people in the Channel has been shared online by Sky News.

It shows an almost entirely deflated dinghy-like vessel, floating in the water.

The boat, which some reports suggest may have been struck by a container ship, causing it to deflate and sink, was carrying those who died on Wednesday night – with official figures from Lille suggesting this included 17 men, 7 women and three children. One of the woman was pregnant.

Just two men escaped from the inflatable craft.

French authorities have begun working to identify those who lost their lives.

This is all that remains of the boat that capsized in the Channel (Sky News)
This is all that remains of the boat that capsized in the Channel (Sky News)

Patel speaking with French counterpart to discuss Channel tragedy

12:45 , Tom Batchelor

Home Secretary Priti Patel was today speaking by phone with her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin to discuss the Channel tragedy, writes our political editor, Andrew Woodcock.

Downing Street said she would want to discuss the offer of UK personnel to take part in joint patrols on French beaches, which has so far been rejected by Paris.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said that the prime minister believes that setting up facilities in northern France to provide a safe route over the Channel would simply provide another “pull factor” for migrants.

He said the UK was instead focused on providing “upstream” access to safe routes to Britain and other European countries nearer to migrants’ home countries.

“All countries have a responsibility to provide safe routes for those most at risk,” said the spokesperson. “That is what the UK is doing with Syria and more recently Afghanistan.

“That is how we have resettled 25,000 refugees and provided costed support for them in communities.”

The spokesperson was unable to give a date for the commencement of the promised resettlement scheme for 20,000 Afghans, saying only that the details of the operation were still being worked out with the UN High Commission for Refugees

No 10 says £54m intended to intercept boats

13:01 , Tom Batchelor

No 10 has said the £54m being paid in instalments to assist the French with the migrant crisis was designed to help “intercept” boats of migrants seeking to reach the UK.

Asked what more the UK government would like to see France do to tackle the problem, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We’ve provided the £54m so they can put in more resources, both on the beaches but beyond that as well to incept those asylum seekers that are making the crossing and to clampdown on the criminal gangs.

“We continue to offer more resources and personnel to the French in terms of things like joint controls, which continues to be an open offer and we know that discussions are ongoing on that.

“And we recognise that on our side we need to take longer term action which is why we have our (Nationality and Borders) Bill to break the model.”

Starmer: Patel ‘not achieving anything’ on Channel crossings

13:16 , Tom Batchelor

Keir Starmer has accused Priti Patel of coming up with “grand statements” on the tragedy in the channel but “not actually achieving anything”.

Speaking to the BBC, he said the home secretary was “playing to the headlines”.

Priti Patel calls for ‘coordinated international effort’ to tackle Channel crossings

13:18 , Tom Batchelor

Priti Patel has confirmed that she made a “very clear” offer to French counterpart Gerald Darmanin in a phone call today of UK personnel to undertake joint patrols on French beaches to prevent small boat crossings.

Addressing MPs, Ms Patel said that a “co-ordinated international effort” was needed to target people-smugglers, and told the House of Commons that she had also been speaking to ministers in Poland, Austria, Belgium, Italy and Greece.

“People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, and nobody needs to flee France in order to be safe,” said the home secretary.

‘Time for urgent action to save lives is now,’ says shadow home secretary

13:22 , Tom Batchelor

In the Commons, the shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, asked Priti Patel if the Dubs scheme to resettle unaccompanied child migrants would be “urgently reinstated”.

He demanded to know when the promised resettlement of 20,000 vulnerable Afghans would begin.

Mr Thomas-Symonds also called on ministers to reverse a cut to international aid. “The time for urgent action to save lives is now,” he said.

Bishop of Dover’s ‘rage’ over Channel deaths

13:30 , Tom Batchelor

The Bishop of Dover has spoken about her “rage” about the deaths, and called for the issue of migration to stop being used as a “political football”.

The Right Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a former chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, told BBC Radio Kent: “I am feeling a deep inner rage that the world continues to allow this to happen, couched with political rhetoric as to whose fault it is.

“This is all our fault, we must all take responsibility.

“This is not something that should be left to one or two countries so we can throw blame backwards and forward - this is an international crisis, people are dying, and people are desperate.”

The Church of England cleric added: “This is solvable - there is enough money in the world. What we now need is the will, what we need is the compassion for others.

“We have got to stop playing political football.”

Patel lays out number of smugglers stopped this year

13:49 , Sam Hancock

Patel is insisting the UK needs to work with other countries to tackle the small boats crisis, telling MPs the government has “dismantled 17 organised criminal groups and secured over 400 arrests and 65 convictions” this year alone.

She said more than 20,000 migrants had been intercepted in total.

“But this crisis continues, clearly demonstrating we need to do more together,” she says. “This is a complicated issue and there is no simple fix. It does need a Herculean effort and it will be impossible without close co-operation between all international partners and agencies.”

She also urged MPs to support the Nationality and Borders Bill, saying: “As we mourn those who have died in the most horrendous of circumstances, I hope that the whole House can come together to send a clear message that crossing the Channel in this lethal way in a small boat is not the way to come to our country.”

‘Myth’ to suggest UK not considering all options to solve migrant crisis

13:55 , Sam Hancock

The home secretary says it is a “complete myth and fallacy” to suggest the UK should not look at all options to deal with the migrant crisis, including turning boats around in territorial waters.

Patel cites the work of Frontex - the EU border agency - including their surveillance work and border patrols.

“They are even supporting activity in the Mediterranean in terms of stopping boats entering territorial waters illegally, I’ve seen those patrols myself,” she tells MPs. “So it’s a complete myth and fallacy to say that we shouldn’t look at all options. We are and we will continue to do so.”

Patel adds she is glad French president Emmanuel Macron has “indicated his determination to stop the vile people smuggling gangs” and to work closely with all partners across Europe.

Those killed in capsized boat: 17 men, 7 women, two teenage boys and young girl

14:00 , Sam Hancock

BBC Newsnight’s Lewis Goodall reports confirmation of 27 victims, including 17 men, 7 women, two teenage boys and a girl.

Patel requests ‘honest assessment’ of situation in France

14:08 , Sam Hancock

Back to Patel in the Commons now, who has been asked by Conservative former minister David Davis about the offers made by the UK to France.

She says she “asked them today for an honest assessment in terms of their own numbers on the beaches, whether or not there are gaps, if more officers are needed, a realistic assessment in terms of the number of migrants that are coming from Belgium in particular”, and suggests observation can be hard in bad weather.

France’s interior minister has indicated there is heavy “flow” of migrant boats coming from Dunkirk, she says, which is where the boat yesterday came from.

Patel says UK has offered more police officers, more intelligence co-operation, more on technologies. “We have put forward a very, very significant technology offer which does include enhanced surveillance, it does include ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) on the roads coming up to the beaches,” she says.

“We’ve also offered to put more officers - unwarranted because they will not take warranted officers - but these are the things I will be working through very specifically now because the status quo cannot persist.”

Corbyn goes after Patel for her ‘brutal treatment of desperate people'

15:12 , Sam Hancock

Britain working tirelessly to fix UK’s ‘broken asylum system’ – Patel

14:11 , Sam Hancock

Patel repeats again that the government is working “tirelessly” to “fix the UK’s broken asylum system”.

She says Britain can only fix these issues by “working with our international partners”.

The session is now over and MPs are leaving the chamber.

How has Brexit affected the migrant crisis?

14:54 , Sam Hancock

Dozens of people died on Wednesday making the perilous journey across the sea, following UK government attempts to make the crossings more difficult.

So far this year more than 25,700 people have managed to complete the perilous crossing. Of those, just five have been returned to Europe, ministers say.

What is less realised is that this is partly down to Britain’s departure from the European Union.

How does that work? Our policy correspondent Jon Stone takes a closer look.

How has Brexit affected the migrant crisis?

Watch: Macron calls for ‘extra help’ from UK on Channel crossings

14:56 , Sam Hancock

‘Sombre’ mood in Calais where people share stories of hopes to reach UK

15:23 , Sam Hancock

Our reporter Zoe Tidman reports from Calais, where she is helping a charity hand out food and drinks to people there.

One worker told The Independent the mood was “sombre”.

There are a lot migrants from Sudan here, amid reports about the nationalities of the 27 killed last night.

One man said he has been trying to settle in Europe for seven years, and has already been to Sweden and Germany but was rejected. He added he wanted to go to the UK now “because I’ve got nowhere else to go.

Another person said they wanted to go to England “because everything is good in England”.

Meanwhile, one said he tried every day to cross over on a lorry. No luck yet, though.

Care4Calais volunteers help people in the area (Zoe Tidman/The Independent)
Care4Calais volunteers help people in the area (Zoe Tidman/The Independent)

Watch: Patel ‘not achieving anything’ on Channel crossings, says Starmer

15:33 , Sam Hancock

Opinion: ‘Using playground politics over Channel tragedy is senseless’

15:39 , Sam Hancock

Some smart analysis from our political columnist Andrew Grice now.

The tragic loss of 27 lives in the Channel is a painful reminder of the failure of politicians on both sides of it. Although Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron have slightly softened their usual rhetoric, there is little sign of them finding the common solutions their countries need to prevent a repeat of the disaster.

The tragedy has not ended the pointless blame game over the small boats. Downing Street said the prime minister and French president agreed in their phone call last night on “stepping up joint efforts to prevent these deadly crossings”. But the Elysee Palace said Macron urged Johnson to stop “politicising” the crisis for “domestic gain”. In turn, UK sources accused Macron of “playing politics with people’s lives.”

Post-Brexit tensions are a barrier to co-operation. The UK would like to be able to return migrants to the EU, as it could - on paper, at least - while it was a member of the bloc. It raised the idea in the Brexit negotiations but there were no takers on the EU side. Macron has accused the UK government of swinging between “partnership and provocation.” UK ministers cite a leaked letter from Jean Castex, the French prime minister, suggesting the EU must make clear that “leaving the union is more damaging than remaining in it”.

Read his thinking in full:

Using playground politics over the tragedy in the Channel is senseless | Andrew Grice

PM’s Channel remarks ‘disingenuous,’ says human rights lawyer

15:42 , Sam Hancock

Let’s get some expert commentary on the Channel migrant tragedy.

Kingsley Napley partner Rebecca Niblock, who is a specialist in international criminal law and human rights, says:

“Boris Johnson’s suggestion that the tragic deaths in the Channel on Wednesday show the necessity of accelerating the measures within the Nationality and Borders Bill is a disingenuous claim.

“As my colleague Elspeth Guild and I have pointed out before, while international law imposes a duty to rescue persons in distress at sea, the nationality and borders bill seeks to provide immunity to those who fail to comply with their duties under international law.

“In practice it will protect Border officials engaged in pushing back boats in the Channel whose actions could result in deaths at sea. Rather than enacting these provisions, the government must provide safe routes for migrants seeking refuge in the UK.”

Reverend issues reminder migrants ‘are not the criminals’

15:59 , Sam Hancock

A reverend has made it clear migrants, refugees and asylum seekers should not be viewed as criminals – insisting it is displaced people who have been taken advantage of by the “actual criminals”.

Reverend Dr Jonathan Arnold, director of communities at the Canterbury Diocese, says asylum seekers are often “dealing with absolutely desperate situations”.

He also said they have “have stories of fleeing from situations that would make us horrified”.

Vigils to be held in France for 27 people killed on boat

16:10 , Sam Hancock

Vigils will be held across parts of France on Thursday night, honouring the lives of the 27 people who died trying to cross the Channel to Britain on Wednesday night when their boat sank.

Zoe Tidman, reporting from Calais, says churches in northern towns are being encouraged to ring out their bells to coincide with the Calais remembrance gathering at 6.30pm.

Other participating regions include Dunkirk – where the boat left from – at 6pm and Paris’ Place de la Republique at 8pm.

Watch: Why are so many migrants crossing Channel in small boats?

16:20 , Sam Hancock

Ministers’ attitudes towards migrants ‘disturbing’ – Phillips

16:46 , Lamiat Sabin

Labour MP Jess Phillips has slammed the government as not caring about migrants crossing the Channel from France.

In writing for The Independent, she says the deaths of 27 people was “predicted by many” and that migrants will continue to attempt to travel to the UK despite ministers’ “flimsy” rhetoric.

She adds that home secretary Priti Patel’s Borders Bill “just allows the government to look tough” and that, if passed, it “won’t stop the boats in the Channel.”

Ms Phillips says: “The solution to the refugee and migrant crisis has got to be found in alliances, diplomacy, investment and aid to enable more people to live the kind of lives elsewhere that we expect in Britain.

“The only way to be tough on migration is to be tough on the root causes of migration.”

Read more here:

I find the government’s attitude to the Channel crisis so disturbing | Jess Phillips

Tory peer and former refugee says crisis response ‘shameful’

17:32 , Lamiat Sabin

The UK and France’s response to the migrant crisis has been branded “shameful” by a Tory peer.

Arminka Helic served as a senior adviser to William Hague during his time as foreign secretary.

She had fled to Britain from Bosnia during the 1990s war.

Baroness Helic told Times Radio: “We shouldn’t be having a ding-dong ping-pong with people whose destinies are connected to the most horrible experiences that they would have had and they are looking for a better life or they’re looking simply for safety.”

Read the full report by our political editor Andrew Woodcock

UK approach to small boats crisis branded ‘shameful’ by former Tory adviser

Man’s body found washed up on beach near Calais

17:50 , Lamiat Sabin

The body of a man who died while crossing the English Channel was found washed up on a beach in France today.

It was found in Sangatte, close to Calais, reports Kent Online.

The news outlet published a photograph of the body wrapped in a white sheet on the back of a specialist off-road vehicle after it was recovered by police and fire crews from the beach.

On Wednesday, at least 27 asylum seekers – 17 men, three children and seven women, one of whom was pregnant – died after an overcrowded dinghy had capsized.

On the same day, fishermen found 15 bodies floating in the Channel.

Candlelit vigil in Calais for drowned migrants

18:35 , Lamiat Sabin

A vigil is taking place outside the port of Calais for at least 27 people who died crossing the English Channel in a dinghy that capsized.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Activists and members of associations defending migrants’ rights have unfurled a banner that reads “309 dead on the France UK border since 1999” – listing all the names of known deceased asylum seekers.


Other attendees to the vigil in Richelieu Park lit candles and laid tributes for at least 10 men, seven women and three children who lost their lives yesterday.


Overcrowded boats ‘homemade’ and ‘like paddling pools’

19:01 , Lamiat Sabin

As a vigil was being held in Calais for migrants that died, a charity worker across the Channel has warned that it’s “only a matter of time” before more people drown trying to get to the UK.

Rory Sullivan is in Dover and has spoken to Kay Marsh – who works in community engagement for the migrant charity Samphire.

She said that some dinghies asylum seekers are put in appear to be “homemade” and “like paddling pools”.

On the deaths, Ms Marsh added: “It’s the biggest tragedy we’ve seen in the last few years. It’s proof that the government’s strategy of deterrence isn’t working.”

Read Rory’s dispatch from Dover here:

‘Only a matter of time’ before more deaths, Dover residents warn

UK officials heading to France for talks

19:30 , Lamiat Sabin

UK government officials and law enforcement are heading to France for talks amid the migrant crossing crisis, according to reports.

Some reports are saying that they are travelling there this evening, while others say they are heading there tomorrow.

Home secretary Priti Patel is also set to travel to France for discussions from Sunday.

She will meet French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin to discuss the migrant crisis following the deaths of 27 people in the Channel yesterday.

Ms Patel spoke to him on the phone today to “put forward plans for greater collaboration and innovation in stopping these deadly crossings”.

The UK government said the ministers “underlined the need for deeper co-operation on stopping the Channel crossings and the need to work closely with European partners”.

Peer’s ‘sleeper terrorist’ speech amid Channel crisis ‘damaging’

19:49 , Lamiat Sabin

A crossbench peer’s remarks about sleeper terrorists possibly being among migrants crossing the Channel were criticised as “damaging”.

In the Lords, former Labour MP Baroness Hoey said that the chance that there are no sleeper terrorists among people fleeing persecution and poverty is “nil”, as all small-boat passengers are “told by the smugglers to destroy their documents”.

She referred to reports that 24 out of 4,000 migrants taken in by Lithuania via Belarus had “direct links with Isis”.

Lady Hoey also slammed “the industry of lawyers making millions from the whole asylum-immigration system”.

She said that the deaths of at least 27 people yesterday is a “wake-up call, much too late” for authorities to take action.

Refugee campaigner and Labour peer Lord Dubs warned that her comments were “damaging” and “the most awful accusation to make against our fellow human beings who are fleeing for safety”.

Lord Dubs, who fled the Nazis as a child on the Kindertransport scheme, added: “We are a country that believes the vulnerable of this world, though suffering from persecution, are entitled to safety.”

Responding, Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said: “People arriving by small boats are subject to stringent checks immediately upon arrival in the UK and again as they are processed into the asylum system.”

PM urges Macron to ‘move further and faster’ on migrant crisis

20:11 , Lamiat Sabin

Boris Johnson has urged his French counterpart to work with the UK on five steps to ease the migrant crisis – including the “swift” return of asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats.

He called on French president Emmanuel Macron to help establish “joint patrols to prevent more boats from leaving French beaches”.

The PM also urged him to help deploy “more advanced technology, like sensors and radar” and – the third step – “airborne surveillance”.

Mr Johnson called for “better real-time intelligence-sharing to deliver more arrests and prosecutions on both sides of the Channel”

The fifth step he outlined in a post on Twitter was to work on “a bilateral returns agreement with France, alongside talks to establish a UK-EU returns agreement” to return migrants who cross the Channel in dinghys and small boats.

He said this would “immediately” and “significantly” reduce the numbers of people who “put their lives in the hands of traffickers”.

‘Everyone completely shocked’, says activist in Dunkirk

20:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Anti-racism campaigner Jean Sunan spoke to Zoe Tidman, who is in Dunkirk, about the deaths of at least 27 migrants yesterday.

There have been reports that the death toll from the capsized dinghy has surpassed 30.

Mr Sunan was at the Dunkirk vigil, where candles were lit at a monument overlooking the water.

 (Zoe Tidman)
(Zoe Tidman)

He said: “Everyone is completely shocked by what happened.

“There have been deaths before, but 30-odd – that’s the first time that has happened.”

20:53 , Katy Clifton

Boris Johnson has shared the letter he sent to Emmanuel Macron earlier this evening.


21:36 , Lamiat Sabin

That’s it for today’s updates on the migrant deaths crisis. Thank you for following.

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