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Immigration

Tensions rise between France and Britain over English Channel tragedy

Both countries accused each other of not doing enough to stop the dangerous crossing that left 27 dead

Migrant Boat Crossing
Migrant Boat Crossing | Shutterstock

November 25, 2021 8:24pm

Updated: November 25, 2021 8:56pm

Tensions between France and Britain increased after a boat carrying migrants trying to reach Britain capsized in the English Channel on Wednesday and left 27 people dead

On Thursday, Ministers from Britain and France blamed their counterparts for the incident, which is one of the worst death tolls for migrants attempting to cross the Channel.

The migrants attempted to cross the Channel on an inflatable dingy, but it sank near Calais. By the time the rescuers found the group, the boat was completely deflated. Most of the victims were Iraqi citizens.

"Those primarily responsible for this despicable situation are the smugglers, that is to say, criminals who, for a few thousand euros, organize human trafficking from Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, Asia and who then use these people to bring them to Belgium, the Netherlands, France, especially to cross the Channel and to go to Great Britain," said France’s Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin.

A spokesperson for the UK Prime Minister said that France and Britain "agreed on the urgency of stepping up joint efforts to prevent these deadly crossings and to do everything possible to stop the gangs responsible for putting people's lives at risk."

“France won’t let the Channel become a graveyard,’’ President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement. President Macron vowed to tighten border controls and increase crackdowns on immigrant smugglers.

Despite these efforts, both countries accused each other of not doing enough to stop the dangerous crossing.

In a phone call between President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Macron urged Johnson to stop politicizing the migrant crisis for domestic political gain.

Johnson said the efforts by French authorities to patrol their beaches “haven’t been enough.” France has denied the UK’s offer to send police and Border Force agents to tackle the migrant problem together, he added.

"People are safe in France, and the best way to keep people safe is to keep them on shore, not in the hands of people smugglers in the middle of the Channel," responded Natalie Elphike, a Member of Parliament for Dover. “People are getting into boats and they're not stopping them. That's where the policy needs to change, on the French side."

“Clearly, immigration is badly managed in Britain,” Darmanin said. He also suggested that Britain is encouraging illegal migration by hiring people who live in the country illegally.

Attempts to reach the UK by crossing the channel have increased in recent years. This year, there have been over 47,000 attempts to reach Britain by Boat, 7,800 of which have been saved by shipwrecks.