Ministers face growing pressure to tackle Channel crossings after six die in boat sinking
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The Government is facing increasing pressure to tackle the growing crisis of migrant crossings in the Channel. It follows the deaths of six people, with more than 50 people rescued after a boat sank off the coast of France in the early hours of Saturday morning.
MPs have called for action to stop criminal gangs profiting from the dangerous crossing, with campaigners at Care4Calais, a refugee crisis charity, describing the incident as an “appalling and preventable tragedy”. Some 59 people were rescued in a joint effort by British and French coastguards, just after 4am on Saturday, after an overloaded boat carrying migrants got into difficulty near Sangatte.
France’s Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea has said that according to accounts from survivors, around 65 or 66 people had originally boarded the boat. According to multiple reports, most of those rescued were Afghans, with some people also from Sudan.
A statement from the French authorities has suggested it had been one of a number of migrant boats that had set off in the early hours of the morning in the hopes of reaching the UK coast. Home Secretary Suella Braverman described the incident as a “tragic loss of life” after chairing a meeting with Border Force officials on Saturday.
A total of 509 people crossed the Channel on Saturday, just hours after six people had died following the boat sinking. The latest Home Office figures take the total over the past three days to over 1,600 people amid improved weather conditions.
The number marks a further setback for the Government’s “stop the boats” pledge, which was included in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s five key priorities for his leadership.
Conservative backbencher, Sir Jake Berry, wrote in the Sunday Express: “We must put a stop to the vile people smugglers who trade in human misery and whose actions result in the loss of life.”Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has said action is “desperately” required to deter criminal gangs who facilitate the journeys across the Channel.
The Refugee Council has warned that “more people will die” unless more safe routes to the UK are created. The government has previously been accused of allowing “small boats week” of linked announcements on immigration to descend into farce following the removal of asylum seekers from the Bibby Stockholm barge.
Senior Conservative backbencher David Davis said the “startling incompetence” of the Home Office had been laid bare after all 39 asylum seekers on board the 500-capacity barge were disembarked after Legionella bacteria was discovered in the water supply.
Despite this week’s difficulties, ministers are intending to push ahead with plans to hire more barges to house asylum seekers, as well as hiring student halls and former office blocks, according to a report by The Telegraph.
The Telegraph’s report quotes a government source who said that as well as Coventry - which has already seen migrants move into university accommodation - Leicester, Portsmouth, Lincoln, Stoke-on-Trent and Huddersfield are all seen as having surplus student housing..
Home Office figures have revealed that 755 people crossed the Channel in small boats on Thursday alone. The shocking figure is the highest daily number so far this year, confirming that over 100,000 people have made the journey since 2018.
Around 343 people in six boats were detected making the crossing on Friday, taking the provisional total for the year to over 16,000.