Politics

PM calls for joint patrols with France after ‘catastrophic’ migrant drownings


Boris Johnson ‘shocked, appalled and deeply saddened’ by migrant deaths

Boris Johnson is urging his French counterpart to agree to joint police patrols along the French Channel coast in the wake of a migrant boat capsizing on Wednesday evening, killing dozens of people – including five women and a young girl.

The PM spoke to Emmanuel Macron last night about the worst incident of its kind since the current Channel migrant crisis began, with immigration compliance minister Tom Pursglove confirming Mr Johnson had renewed a previous offer to send UK police and Border Force officers to mount coordinated patrols with France. Mr Macron has resisted the suggestion before, citing concerns about national sovereignty.

Meanwhile, Maya Konforti, secretary general of the French humanitarian organisation l’Auberge des Migrants, described the incident as a “catastrophe”. Speaking to French TV channel BFMTV this morning, she said the NGO “were sure this would happen one day” but stressed the number of deaths was the real concern.

“When it’s one or two people it’s manageable, but with 31 people, we don’t know how we’re going to do it,” she said. “It will be very, very complicated and it will also be very, very expensive.”

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Calais MP rejects British offer of additional troops in French waters

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports:

Asked what can be done in practical terms to solve the migrant crisis, Pierre Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, I’m not sure that having more police officers… will help to stop these crossings.

“We’ve got 200 or 300km of shore to monitor 24/7 and it only takes five or ten minutes to take a boat and take at sea filled with migrants. I’m not sure it’s only a question about money and the question about the number of men.”

After calls from the British government to France to accept UK police and border officers, he added: “No, that wouldn’t work to monitor all the shore… there is also a question of sovereignty.

“I’m not sure the British people would accept the other way round if French army was patrolling the British shore.”

He continued: “I see two ways to try to handle this situation. The first one is in France to make sure there are no migrants around the shore…. prior to the shore find these migrants and put them in welcoming centres for them to have a rest, for them to have food, for them to have to have a roof.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 08:00

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Child and five women among migrants dead after boat capsizes

The English Channel suffered its worst-ever migrant tragedy on Wednesday after a packed inflatable dinghy sank with the loss of at least 27 lives. (The original figure of 31 is now contested by French authorities, but no explanation has been offered for the discrepancy so far.)

Among those drowned were five women and a young girl, according to French interior minister Gerald Darmanin. He said that two survivors were fighting for their lives while another person appeared to still be missing.

After chairing a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee to discuss the disaster, Boris Johnson declared himself “shocked, appalled and deeply saddened” and offered additional help to Paris to “demolish” people-smuggling gangs which he said were “getting away with murder”.

Andrew Woodcock, Holly Bancroft and Rory Sullivan have more:

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 07:58

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French NGO rubbishes claim migrant crisis is due to human traffickers

Maya Konforti, secretary general of the French humanitarian organisation l’Auberge des Migrants, said the sinking of the migrant boat in the Channel last night was a “catastrophe”.

She told French TV channel BFMTV: “We were sure this would happen one day, but up ‘till now… when there have been deaths, it was one or two at a time, but this is a catastrophe.”

She said the NGO was working to identify the bodies, contact the families, organise the funerals and repatriate the bodies.

“When it’s one or two people it’s manageable, but with 31 people, we don’t know how we’re going to do it. It will be very, very complicated and it will also be very, very expensive.”

Ms Konforti also rubbished efforts by the UK government, and France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin, to blame human traffickers, saying “the existence of smugglers is in response to a need – a need because there’s no legal way to go and seek asylum in Britain”.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 07:48

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UK implores Macron to accept offer of British patrols in French waters

Following conversations last night, Boris Johnson and French president Emmanuel Macron have committed to “keeping all options on the table” in their efforts to break up the human trafficking gangs – which they consider the route cause of the issue – responsible for putting desperate migrants at risk in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

Immigration compliance minister Tom Pursglove confirmed that the PM had renewed a previous offer to send UK police and Border Force officers to mount joint patrols with the French.

The aim is to prevent migrant boats from attempting the perilous crossing, however the French have previously resisted the suggestion amid concerns about the implications for their national sovereignty.

Mr Pursglove said, however, the last incident showed the two countries needed to deepen their cooperation in dealing with the issue.

“The prime minister and President Macron have had exactly that discussion this evening. That is something that I am very keen to see happen,” he told BBC2’s Newsnight.

“It is the case that in the past we have offered to host and to help with joint patrols. I think that could be invaluable in helping to address this issue. I really do hope that the French will reconsider that offer.”

Remarks from various French officials this morning, however, suggest the EU nation will not accept such a move.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 07:47

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Good morning

Hello, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage on the Channel migrant crisis. Stay tuned as we bring you the latest updates after a boat sunk last night, killing dozens of people desperately seeking a new life in Britain.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 07:41


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