Pregnant women and three children of 27 drowned in the canal | Immigration and asylum

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French authorities said that among the 27 people, mostly Kurds from Iraq or Iran, who drowned while trying to cross the English Channel in a rubber dinghy, were pregnant women and three children.

Two male survivors, an Iraqi and a Somali, were treated for exhaustion and hypothermia in a Calais hospital. The public prosecutor in Lille has launched a criminal investigation. Four men suspected of “direct involvement” in the attempted crossing were arrested Wednesday and a fifth arrested early Thursday morning.

During the evening, the bodies were brought to the port of Calais by boat and helicopter, where volunteers from local migrant aid organizations lit candles and held up posters saying “How many more?”. after the International Maritime Organization described the tragedy as the largest single loss of life in the English Channel since records began in 2014.

The Lille Public Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed that 17 men, seven women and three young people – two boys and one girl – were killed in the disaster. “Investigations will be carried out this morning,” said a spokesman. The lives of the survivors were not in danger, it said.

The French interior minister Gérald Darmanin told RTL-Radio that the fifth suspect had driven a car with German license plates and had “bought rubber dinghies in Germany”. Suspected people smugglers have been arrested in France since the beginning of 1500.

“The main responsibility for this situation rests with the smugglers,” Darmanin said, describing them as “mafia-like organizations in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK,” adding, “France and the UK need to work together. We can no longer be the only countries fighting these smugglers. “

Darmanin also renewed his criticism of British refugee policy. “France expels around 20,000 illegal migrants annually,” he said. “The UK manages 6,000 – about four times less than France, although the UK gets about half as many illegal migrants. Britain does not deal well with illegal migration. “

French media said the inflatable boat carrying at least 29 people is believed to have started from Loon-Plage near Dunkirk and most likely camped in the dunes near Grande-Synthe, the site of several migrant camps. The largest with around 1,500 inhabitants was dismantled last week.

The wind was weak and the seas were calm at the time, leading to unconfirmed reports in multiple media outlets, including the La Voix du Nord newspaper, that the boat was either struck by a container ship on one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, or under the Weight of its occupants, possibly after hitting the wake of a larger ship.

The first alarm was triggered around 2 p.m. by a French fishing boat that discovered bodies in the water off the coast of Calais, and French rescue services arrived shortly afterwards. “The boat was mostly found deflated, but it was still swimming,” Bernard Barron, director of the Calais lifeboat service, told reporters. The people were rescued from the water, where the temperature was estimated at 17 ° C, he said.

The head of the Dunkirk lifeboat service, Alain Ledaguenel, said the disaster was predictable. “It had to happen and it happened,” he said. “We know that the means for sea rescue are insufficient.”

French police said Thursday morning they came to the aid of 20 people on Wednesday evening. “Your boat was overloaded and began to take in water quickly, forcing its occupants to return to the beach,” said a tweet. “The police immediately came to their aid.”

French Prime Minister Jean Castex held an emergency meeting on Thursday with six cabinet colleagues, including Darmanin, Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti, Maritime Minister Annick Girardin, Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari and Foreign Minister Jean -Yves Le Drian.

The Elysée Palace said in a statement on Thursday that Emmanuel Macron had “informed Boris Johnson in a telephone call” that he expected “the full cooperation of Great Britain and” [to] stop exploiting a dramatic situation for political purposes ”.

The French President “insisted on the need to act with dignity and to respect the spirit of effective cooperation on human life”. The interior ministers of the two countries would discuss the matter later in the day, the statement said.


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