French President Emmanuel Macron called for more European cooperation to prevent illegal immigration after 27 migrants died off the coast of Calais in the biggest tragedy of its kind in the English Channel.
“When these women and men arrive at the shore of the canal, it is already too late,” Macron said.
He added that “we must strengthen our partners and we must strengthen cooperation with Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, but also the British and the Commission”.
In a telephone conversation, Macron and the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to intensify cooperation to stop smugglers from organizing the illegal canal crossings.
France has invited Belgian, German, Dutch and British ministers as well as the European Commission to a meeting in Calais on Sunday.
The accident marks the biggest loss of human life during attempts to illegally cross the canal, according to the International Organization for Migration. This is because a record number of migrants have tried to get from France to the UK this year.
Johnson held a meeting with the government’s crisis committee, COBRA, in response to the channel tragedy, his office said.
Speaking to reporters gathered in front of 10 Downing Street, Johnson said he was “shocked and appalled and deeply saddened” by the tragedy.
“My thoughts and sympathies are first and foremost with the victims and their families,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing that they’ve suffered.”
He also stated that he wanted to “do more” with France to counter illegal crossings.
Macron said on Wednesday night that “France will not allow [the Channel] to become a cemetery “, calls for” immediate reinforcements “to Frontex and a European emergency meeting.
London “renews offer” for joint patrols in France
Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel said she had renewed an offer to host joint patrols with France with “more officers on site”.
Calais legislator Pierre-Henri Dumont told the BBC that more patrols “will not change anything because we have 200 to 300 kilometers of beach to monitor 24/7.”
At the same time, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin reiterated France’s call on Britain to reform its labor market.
“It’s also the UK’s attractiveness that is being questioned, particularly its labor market, because everyone knows that there are one million, more than one million, 1,200,000 illegal immigrants in the UK and that English employers use this labor to produce things that the British consume. he tells RTL.
Macron told Johnson that he expects full co-operation from the British and that they do not use the tragic situation “for political purposes”, Elysée said.
What happened off the coast of Calais?
Fishermen initially reported that they discovered bodies floating in the water around 14h CET on Wednesday.
The regional maritime authority, which oversees rescue operations, said 27 bodies were found, two people survived and four others were missing and believed to be drowned.
“Strong feelings about the tragedy with the many deaths due to a boat with migrants capsizing in the English Channel,” wrote Darmanin.
“The criminal nature of the smugglers who organize these crossings cannot be overestimated,” he added.
Five suspected traffickers have been arrested on suspicion of being linked to the fatal sinking of the dinghy, Darmanin said.
Two have already been brought before the court at the end of Wednesday, he stated.
The Dunkirk prosecutor’s office told AFP that an investigation had been launched into “aiding and abetting illegal entry and stay in an organized gang” and “gross murder”.
What is the background to this story?
So far this year, at least three migrants have drowned off the coast of Calais, while four people are still missing.
The narrow water channel can be dangerous for attempts at migrant passage, due to strong sea currents.
An estimated 22,000 people have reached the UK in small boats this year, more than twice as many as by 2020.
The British government has agreed to pay France 62.7 million euros to increase security on its northern coast, but says the situation is still “unacceptable”.
Earlier this month, a record 1,185 people reached the UK in a single day.