Updated 13 August 2021: Care4Calais: We now know that made the young Eritrean man who died in the sea off Calais yesterday so desperate to leave France.
The 27-year-old had been staying in camp near Calais. In recent days the police were aggressive and violent, taking tents and belongings and harassing people so they could no longer stay even in this rough camp.
In the police’s wake came the smugglers, offering the only way out – a dangerous trip in a small, overloaded boat across the world’s busiest shipping channel.
It takes a lot of luck to make that journey. The Eritrean couple’s luck ran out. There were 37 in their boat, a hopeless overloading. Just off the coast, in choppy conditions, it began to take on water.
Five men jumped overboard and tried to swim back to the shore. The man who died was among them; in the attempt he suffered a heart attack and was airlifted from the water only to die in hospital later.
The French prosecutor has said it may press manslaughter charges against the smugglers concerned. Justified? Probably. The solution? No.
The awful truth is that in this situation, prosecuting one smuggler is – tragically – almost meaningless. It is attacking the symptom, while entirely ignoring the cause.
What killed this young man – this boyfriend, this son, this mate – was not just a people smuggler. It was the conditions in the camp that drove him to leave.
It was the current unspeakably horrific situation in Eritrea that made him flee his home before that.
And it was the ignorance, unkindness and callousness he will have encountered at every stage of his journey.
If we want these deaths and this suffering to stop, we need to face up to that, and stop looking for convenient scapegoats when something goes wrong.
The real solution isn’t even all that difficult. It has been pointed out over and over again that a modern system that would allow people to claim asylum in the UK without risking their lives is long overdue, and perfectly feasible. That system, together with a modicum of compassion and understanding, would remove the opportunity for people smugglers in the first place. If the French and British governments really cared, that is what they’d be discussing right now.
We know they won’t be. We know they, and many other people, will soon forget this tragedy.
But we’ll keep on campaigning until this awful, disgraceful situation is sorted out.
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12 August 2021: Care4Calais: Today a rescue operation has taken place in the Channel after a boat with 40 people on board began to sink. We have been told that one person was taken to hospital in a helicopter and others had to be helped out of the water.
The rescue operation involved Belgian and French air and sea vessels.
This type of fear and danger is something no-one deserves to face. People are making these crossings because they are desperate, and because there is no system that allows them to claim asylum in the UK safely.
Today’s events are a reminder that peoole have already died making the crossing and further fatalities are inevitable; our Government must face up to this and create a modern system to allow people to claim asylum safely.
No one should feel like their only option is to cross the busiest shipping lane in the world in a small boat. The fact that they do should make any modern, civilised people determined to fix the problem.
This is why we need new routes to safety immediately.
13 August 2021: Independent: Create safe routes for refugees across the Channel to stop people drowning, MPs tell government
Cross-party group including Tories say safe routes needed to undercut smugglers and traffickers
A cross-party group of MPs has called for the government to create safe routes for refugees to cross the channel, following the death of another man in the sea on Thursday.
The group, which includes Conservatives from Boris Johnson’s own party, says that “sufficient alternative safe routes need to be provided by the Government to discourage asylum seekers from using gangs and making unsafe crossings”.
The latest casualty occurred when a small boat carrying about 40 people began to sink in French waters.
Lifeboats as well as French and Belgian helicopters took part in a rescue operation after the boat got into difficulty – but the man lost his life.
The latest statement has been signed by Conservative MPs Caroline Nokes and David Simmonds, Liberal Democrat Tim Farron, Labour MP Neil Coyle and House of Lords cross bencher Lord Bishop of Durham Paul Butler.
The signatories, supporters of the Refugee, Asylum & Migration Policy Project, say agreements need to be put in place to help people who have reached Europe and have family in Britain to claim asylum legally.
And they say more refugees should be resettled in the UK from their current “very low” rates.
The government has responded to a surge in crossings by using tougher criminal sanctions on people who make it across safety, and giving Border Force new powers to force people making crossings to turn back.
Most people trying to cross the channel manage to outwit the Home Office and make it to shore, with more than 10,700 estimated to have successfully crossed in small boats this year.