PARIS — At least 27 individuals drowned in frigid waters off the coast of France on Wednesday, after a ship carrying migrants making an attempt to achieve Britain capsized in the English Channel, one of many worst loss of life tolls in latest years for migrants making an attempt the damaging crossing.
Gérald Darmanin, France’s inside minister, stated that the useless, together with 5 ladies and a bit lady, have been a part of a gaggle whose “extremely fragile” inflatable boat was discovered fully deflated by rescuers. French officers had beforehand given a loss of life toll of 31, however later revised the determine.
Two individuals have been rescued however have been hospitalized with extreme hypothermia. It was nonetheless unclear the place the migrants have been from, Mr. Darmanin informed reporters from Calais.
“It’s an absolute tragedy that fills us with anger,” he stated.
The drownings got here only some days after French and British authorities reached an settlement to do extra to stem the variety of individuals taking to the ocean. They have been additionally a stark reminder that five years after authorities dismantled a sprawling migrant camp in Calais, each international locations are nonetheless struggling to deal with the move of migrants in the world.
“France won’t let the Channel become a graveyard,’’ President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement. He called on an immediate tightening of border controls and an increased crackdown with other European nations on immigrant smugglers. Mr. Darmanin noted, for instance, that smugglers sometimes bought boats in Germany and brought them to France for use in trafficking.
Local maritime authorities said they quickly sent out rescue ships and helicopters after a fishing vessel alerted them that several people were lost off the coast of Calais.
Attempts to reach Britain by boat have increased in recent years as the authorities crack down on the smuggling of asylum-seekers inside trucks crossing the Channel Tunnel.
Since the beginning of the year, there have been 47,000 attempts to cross the Channel and 7,800 migrants had been saved from shipwrecks, according to French officials. Seven people had died or disappeared so far this year before the incident on Wednesday.
Last week, Decathlon, a large sporting goods chain, announced that it had stopped selling kayaks in its stores in Calais and in Grande-Synthe, another city on the northern coast, because they could endanger the lives of migrants trying to use them to cross the channel.
Many migrants — who are often from countries in Africa or the Middle East like Iraq and Eritrea — perceive Britain as an ideal destination because English is spoken, because they already have family or fellow country-members there, and because the job market is more loosely regulated for undocumented migrants.
But the recent increase in attempts to cross the English Channel by boat reflects a shift in routes rather than a surge in migration, according to migration experts and rights groups, who say that, overall, asylum applications in Britain are down this year.
The crossings have become another element in the worsening relations between France and Britain, with each side accusing the other of not doing enough to curb the attempts. Under an agreement between the two nations, Britain pays France to clamp down on crossings through surveillance and patrols.
Mr. Darmanin, the interior minister, said that on Wednesday alone there were 780 police officers and gendarmes watching the coastline. Over 250 people made the crossing, he said, and 671 were arrested.
“It was therefore a day like any other, unfortunately,” he added. He stated these most answerable for the tragedy have been smugglers who ask migrants for hundreds of euros in change for unsafe passage on flimsy vessels.
Four smugglers with suspected ties to the boat that sank on Wednesday have been arrested, Mr. Darmanin stated.
Migrant rights teams have been particularly important of British officers who, they are saying, have adopted an increasingly harsh stance against asylum seekers, even threatening to push boats again towards France.
“This situation is the result of Britain’s shameful policy,’’ said Pierre Henry, the former director of France Terre D’Asile, a migrants rights group. “France cannot continue being a subcontractor to that kind of migration policy. It’s absurd and ineffective. It just ends up making more expensive the most dangerous form of crossing. What happened today was bound to happen.’’
France has also been criticized by nonprofit groups who say the police harass migrants in the area around Calais to make them leave. A Human Rights Watch report from October described the tactic as “enforced misery” — proscribing meals and water distributions, reducing tents and confiscating sleeping luggage, and repeatedly evicting them from camps.
Olivier Caremelle, a neighborhood official and former chief of employees to the mayor of Grande-Synthe, which has lengthy sheltered migrants and refugees, stated that Wednesday’s deaths have been “to be expected” given the numerous dangers offered by the chilly seas of the English Channel, heavy delivery visitors and altering climate.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain stated that he was “shocked and appalled and deeply saddened by the loss of life at sea in the Channel.” But, he added: “I also want to say that this disaster underscores how dangerous it is to cross the Channel in this way.”
The French authorities have often cleared migrant camps close to Calais, providing migrants the chance to maneuver to a shelter and file asylum requests. But many migrants want to proceed their journeys to Britain. One such camp that was house to round 1,000 individuals in Grande-Synthe was cleared final week.
Migrants will preserve making an attempt to cross the Channel, Mr. Caremelle stated, and are decided to “get on boats and try their luck in England.” Only a coverage that may attempt to discover them alternatives in France “would convince some of them not to take such risks,” he stated.