Four people have died and 43 others have been rescued after a small boat got into difficulties in the English channel. 30 people had to be pulled from the water by coastguards.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning lifeboats were launched from the South coast, later joined by an air ambulance and the French coastguard. Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday Home Secretary Suella Braverman confirmed that there had been four known fatalities, and said that a full statement would be provided to the House once the full facts of the incident had been established and any necessary investigations completed.
She continued: ‘I know everyone in this house, and across the country, will join us in expressing our profound sadness and deepest sympathies for everyone affected by this terrible event. I know that they will also join me in expressing our profound gratitude to everyone working on the search and rescue operation. Crossing the channel in unseaworthy vessels is a lethally dangerous endeavour. It is for this reason above all that we work so hard to destroy the business model of the people smugglers.’
Braverman referenced legislation proposed by the Prime Minister on Tuesday that the government says will directly counter the role of criminal gangs of people smugglers.
Controversial legislation which proposed removing asylum seekers to Rwanda while their claims were processed was intended to stop small boats crossings. Following legal challenges and charter airlines pulling out of the deal, no flights to Rwanda have yet taken place.
This tragedy comes as the backlog of asylum claims in the UK is estimated to reach 143,000 by the end of 2023, and Braverman came under fire for describing the numbers of people reaching the Kent coast as ‘an invasion’. Almost 44,000 people have crossed the channel in small boats this year, compared to 23,000 in 2021 according to government figures.
The deaths of more people seeking asylum in the UK places further pressure on the government to deter people from crossing the channel in small boats, or ensure “safe and legal routes”. Currently the only safe and legal routes for asylum seekers are for people on specific schemes from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.
Care4Calais, a charity supporting migrants, said on Wednesday: ‘There are no words to express our horror and grief at today’s tragedy. A full year on from 32 people losing their lives in the Channel, our Government has done nothing to prevent further deaths and so has failed both the refugees who need our help and our country.’
‘Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, laid the blame for these deaths at the feet of people smugglers, but it is the policies of her government that create the conditions for people smugglers to thrive. The total lack of safe and legal routes creates the smugglers’ business model; increased security merely drives up their profits. So it is entirely within the Government’s power to prevent further deaths.’