Boris Johnson "Shocked And Appalled" After Several People Drown Trying To Cross The Channel
Boris Johnson has described news that at least 30 people have drowned trying to reach the UK as "appalling".
33 people are believed to have died in this afternoon's disaster, including five women and a young girl, France's interor minister said in a press conference on Wednesday evening. Two people are believed to have been saved, and a search and rescue operation for several more missing people is still underway.
The Prime Minister is chairing a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee this evening after the dinghy containing the migrants sank earlier today.
"I'm shocked and appalled, and deeply saddened by the loss of life at sea in the Channel," Johnson said in a statement from Downing Street.
"My thoughts and sympathies are first of all with the victims and their families. It's an appalling thing that they have suffered.
Johnson said the tragic incident "underscores how dangerous it is to cross the Channel in this way".
He believed more needed to be done to prevent people making the journey to the UK in this way, including stopping criminals organising crossings. He admitted efforts so far to stem the flow of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats "haven't been enough”.
The news comes as record numbers of migrants have crossed from France to the UK in recent weeks.
The total number of people who have made the journey this year has already reached almost 25,000 – triple the number of arrivals in 2020.
The UK government, particularly Home Secretary Priti Patel, is under growing pressure to reduce the number of Channel crossings.
On Wednesday evening Patel said her "thoughts are with the families of all of those who have tragically lost their lives in French waters today".
"It is why this Government’s New Plan for Immigration will overhaul our broken asylum system and address many of the long-standing pull factors encouraging migrants to make the perilous journey from France to the United Kingdom," she added.
"We will continue to intensify all cooperation with France and other European partners to prevent migrants embarking on these deadly journeys."
Johnson has set up a ministerial committee chaired by Stephen Barclay, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, which is tasked with addressing the issue.
The PM said tonight: "What this shows is that the gangs who are sending people to sea in these dangerous crafts will literally stop at nothing.
"But what I'm afraid it also shows is that the operation that is being conducted by our friends on the beaches, supported as you know with £54 million from the UK to help patrol the beaches, the technical support we've been giving, they haven't been enough.
"Our offer is to increase our support but also to work together with our partners on the beaches concerned, on the launching grounds for these boats.
"That's something I hope will be acceptable now in view of what has happened.”
In response to an urgent question tabled by Labour in the Commons on Monday, Patel said the number of migrant crossings was "unacceptable".
She pointed to her Nationality and Borders Bill, which is still going through the Commons, as a key measure for making a difference.
Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrats' Home Affairs Spokesperson, blamed the "heartbreaking" news of today's incident on the government's "total failure to get a grip on this crisis."
He said: "Priti Patel must stop her pointless posturing and take action to stop these dangerous crossings, by providing safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees."
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