France – World | London and Paris in shock after the most terrible migratory tragedy in the Channel


Calais – The death of 27 migrants on Wednesday in the sinking of their boat in the English Channel, an unprecedented tragedy on this migratory route, caused a shock wave in London and Paris, who agreed on the « urgency » to intensify the fight against this traffic after weeks of tension.

French President Emmanuel Macron initially announced a death toll of 31, but it has been revised downwards by the Interior Ministry.

Among the victims are 17 men, including two who died in hospital, seven women and « three young people », whose exact age is still unknown, the prosecutor of Lille (north), Carole Etienne, told AFP.

Two survivors « apparently Somali and Iraqi » were also hospitalized and should be able to be heard shortly, she indicated.

« France will not let the Channel become a cemetery », reacted Emmanuel Macron, calling for « an emergency meeting of European ministers ».

He promised that everything would be « implemented to find and condemn those responsible » for this shipwreck off the coast of Calais, described as « tragedy » by Prime Minister Jean Castex.

« Shocked, revolted and deeply saddened », British Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured Sky News that he wanted to « do more » with France to discourage illegal crossings, pointing to Franco-British disagreements.

Speaking in the evening, Mr Johnson and Mr Macron « agreed on the urgency of stepping up joint efforts to prevent these deadly crossings, » according to a Downing Street spokesperson.

– Autopsies –

They also insisted on « the importance of a close collaboration with the Belgian and Dutch neighbors as well as with the partners of the continent ».

London and Paris had already agreed recently to strengthen their efforts to stop departures, after the arrival on 11 November of 1,185 migrants in England, a record.

The tragedy, feared by the authorities and associations, is by far the deadliest since the soaring in 2018 of the migratory crossings of the Channel, in the face of the growing lockdown of the port of Calais and Eurotunnel, used until then by migrants. trying to rally England.

The rescue ships bringing back the victims docked in the evening in the port of Calais. The remains were during the night being transferred to the Lille forensic institute for autopsy.

The Specialized Interregional Jurisdiction (JIRS) of Lille was seized of the investigation, opened for « help with irregular entry and stay in an organized group », « homicide and involuntary injuries » and « criminal association ».

The wreckage was seized and will be examined to clarify the causes of the sinking, said the prosecutor.

Before this sinking, the human toll since January amounted to three dead and four missing, after six dead and three missing in 2020.

According to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, four smugglers suspected of being linked to the tragedy were arrested, but the prosecutor did not confirm this element.

– « Body adrift » –

The drama took place on a « long boat », a fragile inflatable boat with a flexible bottom whose use by smugglers has increased since the summer. The boat had left Dunkirk according to a source close to the file.

« We recovered six bodies adrift », said Charles Devos, the boss of the star Notre-Dame du Risban of the SNSM of Calais, describing « an inflatable boat downright deflated ».

Two helicopters and three boats were notably dispatched during the rescue.

About fifty people gathered in the evening near the port, provided with candles. « Darmanin, murderer, you have blood on your hands, » they chanted in particular.

La Manche « is in the process of being transformed into an open-air cemetery », alarmed Pierre Roques, of the Auberge des Migrants, a local association.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), « shocked and upset », estimated that « only coordinated and united efforts (…) will make it possible to prevent new tragedies ».

Attempts to cross the Channel on board small boats have doubled in the past three months, the maritime prefect of the Channel and the North Sea, Philippe Dutrieux, had recently warned.

As of November 20, 31,500 migrants had left the coast since the start of the year and 7,800 migrants had been rescued. A trend that has not abated despite the winter temperatures.

According to London, 22,000 migrants made the crossing over the first ten months of the year.

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