AT least 33 UK-bound migrants drowned yesterday when their tiny inflatable capsized — hours after French police had simply watched overloaded dinghies heading into the Channel.
A young girl was among the victims in the deadliest day of the crossings crisis. The horror in rough seas off Calais sparked fresh fury at failure to end the misery.
Boris Johnson accused France of letting traffickers “get away with murder”.
A migrant girl is kissed by her relieved dad after they arrived in the UK — on the day at least 33 died when their packed dinghy capsized in the Channel.
Another girl sucked a lollipop while she was carried to safety as the lucky group was brought ashore by RNLI lifeboats in Dungeness, Kent, yesterday.
But, in the biggest single loss of life since records began in 2014, an inflatable craft overturned, tipping around 50 people into icy waters.
A French fisherman raised the alarm at 2pm after finding 15 bodies floating off Calais.
Last night France confirmed at least 33 migrants had died — including five women and a girl.
At 7.15pm — 6.15pm UK time — a grey naval rescue boat bearing the victims edged into the Port of Calais. Two survivors were seen wrapped in foil blankets.
Authorities said the dinghy had refused help after suffering engine trouble.
The horror sparked new fury at the French as PM Boris Johnson blasted “gangster” traffickers. French cops were earlier seen watching 40 other migrants set sail for the UK — and faced accusations of squandering British taxpayers’ cash sent to beef up beach patrols.
Last night in Calais protesters gathered near a quayside hangar where the bodies were taken. They held up placards, including one saying “Combien de morts faudra-t-il? — How many deaths will it take?”
One protester told The Sun: “It is inhumane what has been happening to the migrants for years. They need help.”
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said: “This is an absolute tragedy. It underlines why saving lives at sea starts by stopping the boats entering the water in the first place.
“As winter is approaching the seas will get rougher, the water colder, the risk of even more lives tragically being lost greater. That’s why stopping these dangerous crossings is the humanitarian and right thing to do.”
We have been here a month waiting and we will carry on. We have come a long way and will not give up.
Dunkirk prosecutors opened a probe into manslaughter as a hunt for the traffickers was launched. Two suspects were in custody in Calais last night. Gangs have been charging thousands of pounds for passage in often overcrowded, unsafe craft.
Earlier yesterday, French police in a vehicle were pictured watching 40 migrants as they launched from a beach near Wimereux, north of Boulogne-sur-Mer. The desperate group, including five children, were seen clambering aboard dinghies which safely reached the English coast.
Other migrants in Calais spoke of their shock after yesterday’s horror. Iranian Ali Ahmadin, 25, said: “We have heard about the tragedy but we still plan to go to the UK. We have been here a month waiting and we will carry on. We have come a long way and will not give up.”
His pal Mohammad Sadi, 39, stood barefoot next to a dank mattress and said: “We need help. It is freezing here and we are desperate. We still want to travel and I need some shoes, please.” Paul, a 59-year old French fisherman, told The Sun: “It is very sad but I am not shocked. “I saw lots of people here today, of all nationalities but I don’t know which were the ones that drowned. The fisherman who saw what happened has gone away with the police and is speaking to them.”
A British helicopter from the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Dover joined the search alongside a French naval helicopter and patrol vessel, a police boat and lifeboat. As darkness fell, police, soldiers and medics gathered at the Hangar Paul Devot for the grim task of receiving bodies.
A crane with heavy-lifting equipment sat at the dockside close to a red ambulance. More than 25,000 migrants have crossed the Channel this year – far eclipsing the 8,000 who came in 2020 and 1,000 who arrived in 2019. More than 4,000 have so far made the journey in November — the most in a single month. And the surge shows no sign of slowing down despite winter.
'Enough is enough'
Up to a record 1,185 migrants have been landing in Britain every day as pressure mounts on Home Secretary Priti Patel. Last week it was revealed only five asylum seekers out of 24,000 who made the treacherous crossing this year have been returned.
Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart accused President Emmanuel Macron of failing to crack down on smuggling gangs. She said: “I have been alerting for months that this sort of drama would happen. Enough is enough.”
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin cancelled engagements and sped to the scene. He tweeted: “The criminal nature of the smugglers cannot be condemned enough.”
MAYBE now, with more than 30 migrants tragically dead in the Channel, politicians on both sides of it will finally act.
Maybe the French will end their infantile anti-Brexit games, order their police to get off their backsides and stop these treacherous dinghies setting sail.
That cops should sit idly by yesterday while terrified and freezing children were packed into potentially lethal boats wasn’t just shameful. It was inhumane.
Maybe our own Government will put in place an asylum system fit for purpose, not our chaotic, lax regime which acts as a magnet for illegal immigration.
The wicked people-smugglers of course bear ultimate responsibility. France must send an army of cops to lock them up, as the UK paid them £54million to do.
But these evil gangs only have a trade because of ineptitude and a lack of will on both sides. And because the EU’s open borders let migrants cross Europe and reach the French coast unhindered.
Hundreds a day now risk the crossing knowing that if they succeed they will be fed, housed and never removed.
Unless both sides act, more horrific and appalling deaths are grimly inevitable.
PM Jean Castex added: “My thoughts are with the many missing and wounded, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and their misery.”
It came as officials tried to explain how they have spent £54million handed over by Britain earlier this year.
They claimed to have spent £9million so far on quad bikes, 4x4s, rigid-hulled boats and vehicles equipped with monitoring and detection equipment.
The criminal nature of the smugglers cannot be condemned enough.
An interior ministry spokesman said: “More than 100 mobile vehicles are being delivered on the ground for patrols and arrests. Twenty have been delivered and are being used daily.
“The others will arrive in December and over the course of 2022.”
In the last major Channel surge in 2015, when The Jungle migrant camp sprang up near Calais, France sent 3,500 officers from its mobile police unit, the CRS. Just a couple of hundred reservist gendarmes are now deployed — as gangs push through more migrants.
WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS
FRANCE was warned a year ago that turning a blind eye to Channel crossings would create a graveyard at sea.
And it was echoed in Calais last night when the mayor accused Paris of ignoring their pleas for help while record numbers made the perilous 21-mile journey this year.
Nearly 26,000 migrants have arrived in 2021 and drownings have been on the increase. More than 6,000 people have crossed in the past three weeks, ten times the number for November 2020.
On November 11, a record 1,185 landed in a single day. In contrast only 1,844 people arrived in all of 2019. Deaths have also been on the rise with at least ten migrants known to have drowned in the past three weeks.
A year ago, charity Save the Children warned: “The English Channel must not become a graveyard for children.”
Last night, Calais mayor Natalie Bouchart hit out at President Macron. She said: “It’s been weeks and months since I warned about this situation.”
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