France, Britain trade blame after 27 migrants drown in English Channel
- 27 migrants, including children and pregnant women, drowned in the English Channel
- British PM Boris Johnson said France should do more to deter people from travelling from their shores
- French President Emmanuel Macron said Britain should stop politicising the issue
At least 27 migrants, including children and pregnant women, died after their small boat sank while attempting to cross the English Channel, a French government official said Thursday. The accident was the worst migrant disaster on record in the narrow seaway separating England and France. Following the accident, England and France traded blame.
The English Channel is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, however, currents in the seaway are strong.
Behind the tragedy is the work of human traffickers who overload people into small boats called dinghies and send them into the dangerous sea lane. French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said that five suspected traffickers have been arrested.
France had initially stated that 31 people had died in the tragedy but later revised the number to 27.
Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, expressed shock over the deaths and said France should do more to deter people from attempting to cross over through the narrow channel. Trafficking gangs were “literally getting away with murder,” Johnson said.
Responding to Johnson’s comment, French President Emmanuel Macron said Britain should stop politicising the issue for domestic gain. Darmanin said Britain should also be part of the answer.
Among survivors are two critically ill people currently hospitalised. Both of them are suffering from severe hypothermia.
Migration through the Channel has recently emerged as a geopolitically sensitive point for both Britain and France. Britain has accused France of “standing by” while thousands of migrants leave their shores. France, however, rejects the allegation. “France will not let the Channel become a graveyard,” said Macron.
Drowning incidents in the Channel have become more common over the last few years. Earlier this year, 14 people drowned while trying to travel to Britain, said a local prefecture official. Seven people died in 2020 and four people in 2019.