At least 31 migrants crossing the English Channel bound for the UK died this Wednesday in a shipwreck near the coast of Calais (northern France), official media reported.
The search work, which continued during the afternoon, began after a fisherman alerted “around 2:00” of the “discovery of about 15 floating bodies off the coast of Calais, ”according to the Interior Ministry. The authorities do not rule out an increase in the death toll.
According to the local maritime prefecture, three helicopters and three ships participated in the search efforts. And the Dunkirk prosecutor’s office (north) announced the opening of an investigation.
This tragedy happens when migratory tension grows in Calais and its surrounding areas, after the peaks of 2015 and 2016. In the first ten months of this year, 24,655 people tried to cross the English Channel irregularly by sea to reach the United Kingdom, when in all of 2020 there had been 9,551.
Today is the deadliest accident since 2018 There was a spike in attempts to cross the Channel after the closure for migrants from the port of Calais and the Eurotunnel, routes traditionally used by them to reach England.
Before this shipwreck, the balance of 2021 was three dead and four missing. In 2020, six people lost their lives and another three disappeared. In 2019, four deaths were registered.
The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, called an interministerial crisis meeting after the news broke, Downing Street announced. “The Prime Minister will lead a COBR meeting (crisis) on the situation in La Mancha this afternoon ”, declared his spokesman.
“France will not let La Mancha become a cemetery”, said President Emmanuel Macron, according to the presidential palace. The French president called for the “immediate reinforcement of the Frontex agency’s means at the external borders of the European Union”, and an “emergency meeting of the European ministers concerned with the migration issue.”
The French Prime Minister, Jean Castex called what happened a “tragedy”. “I direct my thoughts to the many missing and injured, victims of criminal traffickers who exploit the despair and misery of immigrants,” he said on Twitter.
The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, meanwhile, he has moved to Calais. “Strong shock at the tragedy of the many deaths in the wreck of a migrant ship in the English Channel. We can never say enough about the criminal nature of the smugglers who organize these crossings, ”Darmanin wrote on his Twitter profile.
The boat, which had left with about 50 people from Loon-Plage, near Dunkirk, in the North department, capsized on the territorial boundary between France and the United Kingdom, but on the French side, reports the newspaper ‘Le Parisien’.
The recent increase in this flow of immigrants, many from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Eritrea, has led, for example, to the dismantling last week of a network dedicated to the trafficking of immigrants in the English Channel, which resulted in the arrest of 15 people.
In a decision that reflects the migratory tension between both borders, the chain of sports equipment establishments Decathlon has withdrawn recreational boats from sale in several stores in northern France to prevent them from being used by migrants in their attempt to reach the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom, which months ago accused France of not doing enough to stop the arrival of migrants to its shores, says that 22,000 managed to cross the English Channel in the first 10 months of the year.
Despite the tension between the two countries due to this phenomenon, London and Paris pledged to “strengthen” their cooperation, after the arrival of 1,185 migrants to the English shores on November 11, a record.
With information from AFP, EuropaPress and EFE
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