France and Britain agree to step up efforts to limit canal crossings

France and Britain agree to step up efforts to limit canal crossings


The day after at least 27 people died trying to cross the English Channel when their flimsy rubber dinghy wrecked during the dangerous journey, leaders of France and England vowed to crack down on migrant crossings, despite a stubborn response to one deadliest disasters in recent years, with migrants trying to cross the narrow waterway that separates the two countries.

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The day after at least 27 people died trying to cross the English Channel when their flimsy rubber dinghy wrecked during the dangerous journey, leaders of France and England vowed to crack down on migrant crossings, despite a stubborn response to one deadliest disasters in recent years, with migrants trying to cross the narrow waterway that separates the two countries.

French officials confirmed that children and a pregnant woman were among the drowned while crews worked in the cold and wind to recover bodies and identify the deceased. Two people, one from Iraq and one from Somalia, were found and taken to a French hospital where they were treated for severe hypothermia.

The representative of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region in Paris said many of the victims are believed to be Iraqi Kurds but are difficult to identify. French officials did not say where the dead came from.

The tragedy was a haunting reminder that five years after the authorities disbanded a sprawling migrant camp in Calais, both countries are still struggling to cope with the flow of migrants in the region.

France and Britain have long blamed each other for not doing enough to contain attempts to cross the Channel. Following Wednesday’s tragedy, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said greater efforts should be made to facilitate joint patrols along the French coast.

And President Emmanuel Macron of France said he expected the British “to cooperate fully and refrain from using this dramatic situation for political means”.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Macron added that France was only a “transit country” for migrants trying to reach the UK.

“In a way, we are holding the border for the British,” he said, adding that most migrants reaching the Calais area did not want asylum in France despite offers from the French authorities.

The two leaders spoke by phone late Wednesday and made statements afterward that they had agreed to step up their efforts to prevent migrants from making the journey on one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.

As part of an agreement between the two nations, Britain is paying France to disrupt the border crossings through surveillance and patrols.

Johnson said he was “shocked and pale and deeply saddened by the loss of life at sea in the canal”. But he added: “I would also like to say that this disaster underscores how dangerous it is to cross the canal in this way.”

Macron called for an immediate tightening of border controls and increased action with other European nations against people smugglers.

“France will not allow the canal to become a cemetery,” he said in a statement.

The drownings came just days after French and British authorities agreed to do more to curb the number of people at sea.

Attempts to reach the UK by small boats have increased in recent years as authorities cracked down on smuggling asylum seekers in trucks traveling by ferry or through the Channel Tunnel.

Since the beginning of the year there have been 47,000 attempts to cross the canal in small boats and 7,800 migrants have been saved from shipwreck, according to French authorities. As of Wednesday this year, seven people had died or disappeared so far.

Many migrants – often from countries in Africa or the Middle East such as Iraq and Eritrea – see the UK as an ideal destination because English is spoken, because they already have families or compatriots there, and because it is relatively easy to find outside the city – books work .

But the recent surge in attempts to cross the English Channel by boat reflects a shift in the way migrants travel rather than the number who say asylum applications in the UK overall this year, according to migration experts and human rights groups have decreased.

The crossings have become another element of the deteriorating relationship between France and Great Britain, including via fishing rights and trade controls after the UK left the European Union, as well as a submarine alliance between Australia, Great Britain and the United States that are undermining ran into an earlier French deal.

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