More people making the perilous journey across the Channel have been brought ashore in the UK following the deadliest day of the current migrant crisis.
A group wearing life jackets and wrapped in blankets were seen huddled together on board an RNLI lifeboat before disembarking in Dover on Thursday morning, just a day after a dinghy capsized off the coast of Calais, causing the loss of dozens of lives.
Ahead of talks with Home Secretary Priti Patel French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said the loss of 27 lives was an “absolute tragedy” as he blamed human trafficking gangs who promised people the “El Dorado of England” for a large fee.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called for a better system based on “compassion, justice and co-operation across frontiers” following the “devastating loss of human life”, as new figures showed asylum claims made in the UK have risen to the highest level for nearly 20 years.
Pierre-Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais, rejected the Prime Minister’s proposal as a “crazy solution” that “will not change anything” along the vast shoreline.
The dead were said to include 17 men, seven women, and two boys and a girl thought to be teenagers. One of the dead women was reported to have been pregnant.
The French authorities have arrested five suspected people traffickers in connection with the incident, and the French prosecutors’ office said magistrates are investigating potential charges of homicide, unintentional wounding, assisting illegal migration and criminal conspiracy.
The Embassy is deeply saddened by the tragedy in the Channel today. Our thoughts go to the victims & families. 🇨🇵 is determined to fight the criminal networks responsible for this human trafficking, in cooperation with its neighbours & friends. There should be no doubt about it.
— French Embassy UK (@FranceintheUK) November 24, 2021
The Dover Strait is the busiest shipping lane in the world and has claimed many lives of people trying to cross to Britain in inflatable dinghies.
More than 25,700 people have made the dangerous journey to the UK in small boats this year – three times the total for the whole of 2020, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.
Figures released by the Home Office on Thursday showed that more than 37,500 asylum claims were made in the UK in the year to September, which is the highest level for nearly 20 years.
The backlog in cases also reached its highest point since comparable records began, with more than 67,500 asylum applications awaiting a decision at the end of September.
Immigration minister Kevin Foster said Britain had supplied a helicopter during Wednesday’s search for survivors and insisted the UK is “happy to look at doing more” to support French efforts to prevent crossings of the Channel.
“We have offered resources, we are happy to support their operations on the beach,” he told BBC Breakfast, adding that ministers are “determined to smash this really evil business model” of people trafficking.
But Calais MP Mr Dumont told the same programme that more patrols “will not change anything because we have 200-300km of shore to monitor 24/7”.
“I think it’s time for both our governments to stop blaming each other and to try and talk to each other and find real solutions, not a crazy solution such as having more and more people patrolling, sending the British Army to the French shore,” he said.
“That is not acceptable and will not change anything.”