Refugees’ Channel boat tragedy should be ‘wake-up call’ to UK and France

The refugee boat tragedy in the English Channel should serve as a “wake-up call” for UK and French leaders, charity bosses said.

Two children, aged five and eight, and two adults died after the vessel sunk off the coast of Dunkirk on Tuesday, French authorities said.

More than a dozen other people were taken to hospital and searches are continuing for any others involved.

It is reported to be the single biggest loss of life during the current refugee crisis and brings the total number of deaths since 2018 to 10.

Clare Moseley, who founded the refugee crisis charity Care4Calais, called for the incident to be a “wake-up call” for those in power in the UK and France.

She said: “We are grieving for the victims, we stand in sympathy and solidarity with their families and friends. It is cruel and horrifying that, this time, young children are among the victims.

“We have to provide a safe and legal process by which refugees can have their UK asylum claims heard, that’s the way to put an end to terrifying, dangerous sea crossings and stop tragedy striking again.”



Priti Patel during a media briefing at Downing Street
(Image: PA)

Charity Save the Children added: “The tragic news must be a wake-up call for both London and Paris to come up with a joint plan that ensures the safety of vulnerable children and families. The English Channel must not become a graveyard for children.”

Military resources and civilian boats were involved in the rescue operation after the vessel was seen in difficulty near Dunkirk.

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French citizenship minister Marlene Schiappa said she learned of the tragic incident with “great sadness”. She added: “Despite the resources of the state, which were all mobilised in the SOS operation, the losses are heavy and the final toll is still uncertain.”

Home secretary Priti Patel said she was “truly saddened” to learn of the deaths and reaffirmed her commitment to targeting people smugglers.

She said: “We are in touch with our French counterparts who are leading on the response and have offered whatever support they need as they investigate this incident.

“This tragic news highlights the dangers that come with crossing the Channel and I will do everything I can to stop callous criminals exploiting vulnerable people.”

Boris Johnson echoed Ms Patel’s comments, saying: “My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives in the Channel. We have offered the French authorities every support as they investigate this terrible incident.”