• Saturday, September 30, 2023


Renewed urgency places ministers under pressure to tackle boat crossings

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

Ministers are confronting renewed demands to address the escalating boat crossings in the Channel, prompted by the tragic sinking of the vessel off the French coast on Saturday (12) that resulted in the loss of six migrant lives.

The Labour Party has accused the government of being outmaneuvered by people smugglers, while a Conservative backbencher underscores the UK’s moral responsibility to intervene.

Ongoing investigations are being conducted into the incident that occurred on Saturday, involving the rescue of 59 individuals, with the possibility of two individuals still unaccounted for.

The vessel, burdened by overcapacity, encountered challenges leading to its capsizing approximately 12 miles (20km) away from Sangatte.

This vessel was one among several migrant boats that embarked on the same day with the goal of reaching the UK.

Simultaneously, on that very day, French coast guards successfully rescued an additional 54 individuals from a separate migrant boat that had capsized around 6 miles (10km) off the Calais coastline. These rescued individuals were subsequently transported to the port of Dunkirk, the BBC reported.

Bridget Phillipson, a shadow cabinet minister, criticised the government’s handling of the situation, attributing the issues to an overwhelmed asylum backlog and a perceived lack of competence within the Home Office.

She advocated for streamlined case processing and quicker decision-making to address the situation effectively.

Within the Conservative Party, calls for action have also arisen.

A backbench member of parliament and former party chairman, Sir Jake Berry, emphasised the necessity for significant reforms to alter the situation fundamentally.

He asserted that the UK possesses an ethical duty to act both for its citizens and asylum seekers.

The tragic incident garnered reactions from refugee charities and advocacy groups, emphasising the need for safer migration routes.

Care4Calais labelled it as an “appalling and preventable tragedy,” while the Refugee Council warned that more lives could be lost unless secure paths to the UK are established.

Home secretary Suella Braverman, who presided over a meeting with UK Border Force officials following the incident, expressed condolences for the loss of life and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to addressing the issue.

The forthcoming Illegal Migration Bill, spearheaded by Braverman, represents a central element of the government’s strategy to halt small boat crossings.

It establishes a legal obligation on the home secretary to detain and remove individuals entering the UK unlawfully.

The government’s plans also encompass a new agreement with France involving a £500 million investment over three years to bolster patrol efforts and establish a new detention centre.

However, the geographical complexity of the English Channel has posed challenges to effective coastguard enforcement.

In response to the incident, French sea minister Hervé Berville condemned human traffickers for exploiting migrants and subjecting them to perilous maritime routes.

Investigation efforts aim to identify the smuggling network responsible for organising the ill-fated crossing.

Despite the tragedy, migrants continue to attempt the journey, with rescue operations uncovering stories of determined individuals bailing water from sinking boats using their shoes.

The search for two individuals who remain unaccounted for has been suspended pending new leads.

The majority of the migrants involved are believed to hail from Afghanistan and Sudan, including children among them.

Calais aid workers report an influx of migrants in recent weeks, many of whom are determined to reach the UK despite the acknowledged risks.

The pressure on ministers intensifies against the backdrop of earlier criticism, stemming from the relocation of 39 asylum seekers due to the detection of Legionella bacteria in the water supply of the Bibby Stockholm barge.


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