France holds crisis talks after 27 migrants die crossing the Channel

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Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced Thursday morning that a fifth person suspected of being involved in the attempt to move the group of migrants across the Channel in a small boat had been arrested. Mr Darmanin is due to meet with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel on Thursday.

French authorities said seven women and three minors were among the dead. Mr Darmanin said two survivors, confirmed to be Iraqi and Somali nationals, were recovering from hypothermia. Rescue teams were first alerted to the incident around 2 p.m. local time on Wednesday when a fisherman reported seeing bodies floating in the sea.

The French prosecution has opened an investigation for human trafficking and aggravated manslaughter. The migrants were aboard an inflatable boat that rescuers found deflated near the floaters.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex is chairing a meeting with seven government ministers on Thursday to discuss what can be done to resolve the crisis following the deaths.

Migrant crossings have fueled growing tension between France and the UK, among several disputes that have soured relations between the countries. British authorities say France is not doing enough to prevent people from crossing, while France says Britain has made illegal work for migrants too easy, luring them to the north coast of France to do the job. trip.

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French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke by telephone on the tragedy on Wednesday and agreed to step up efforts to prevent further loss of life in the English Channel.

Mr Darmanin said the smugglers bear the greatest responsibility in the tragedy, adding that countries like France, the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium need to cooperate better to stop further tragedies.

“Unfortunately, we know only too well how things go in general,” Mr Darmanin told local radio RTL. “The migrants, sometimes by the dozen, sometimes by the hundreds, storm a beach to leave very quickly for England, often at high tide, in makeshift boats provided by smugglers, who are criminals.”

“There are pregnant women, children who died yesterday,” he added. “For a few thousand euros these people are exploited and promised to an El Dorado in England and unfortunately this has been happening every day for 20 years.”

Increased checks and security at the port of Calais and the Channel Tunnel have prompted a growing number of migrants to attempt to reach the UK in small boats, authorities say.

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Some 31,500 migrants have left the French coast since the start of the year, of which 7,800 have been rescued at sea, said Philippe Dutrieux, senior official of the French maritime police in the region, in an interview with Agence France -Press November 25. 20.

Mr Dutrieux said migrant smuggling was a lucrative business, adding that boats could leave from anywhere on a coastline about 81 miles long, making it difficult for police in France. On November 3 alone, some 1,600 migrants attempted to cross the Channel, he said.

“It’s a cat and mouse game,” said Mr. Dutrieux. “When the weather is nice, you can see the cliffs of Dover and you feel like you can touch them.

Many of those who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean from Africa or travel months overland from Asia immediately head north for the UK.

For migrants from Calais, France, the attraction of crossing the Channel is strong. It is easier for them to find work in the UK than in France, and many of those from countries like Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Syria speak at least some English.

France and the UK recently argued over a series of issues. Disputes have erupted over post-Brexit issues, including fishing rights in the Channel and an agreement to avoid border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

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In September, the UK angered France by making a deal with Australia and the US that prompted France to pull out of a multibillion dollar project to supply submarines to Australia.

Macron called on Wednesday for “an emergency meeting of European ministers facing the migration challenge”. He pledged to track down those responsible for the smuggling of migrants.

“France will not let the Channel become a cemetery”, he declared, calling for the “immediate reinforcement” of the means of Frontex, the border control agency of the European Union.

Natacha Bouchart, mayor of Calais, told reporters that governments “must react and react quickly”, adding: “We should not wait for tragedies to act”.

“What annoys me most tonight is for several weeks that I have been warning members of the government to warn them that there is exceptional pressure at the moment,” Ms. Bouchart said Wednesday.

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