Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said authorities are “not doing enough” to diminish the “power” of people traffickers aiding migrants to embark on sea crossings to the UK.
He told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast: “To be honest, I’m sick of the Home Secretary playing to the headlines on this with grand statements about what she’s going to do, turning boats back and all the rest of it, but actually not achieving anything in relation to this issue.
“We need to be working with the French in the camps, working upstream on law enforcement because in the camps, among the problems, is the pull, the power of the people smugglers is far greater than those of the authorities because we are not doing enough work to break that link.
“If the people smugglers say, ‘It is your turn, you’re on the boat this morning, here it is’, then desperate people who have got as far as the northern coast of France are more likely to do what the smugglers are telling them to do than the authorities giving them the support that they need.”
The National Crime Agency has released a statement on the events that unfolded on Thursday, with their deputy director Andrea Wilson saying:
What happened in the English Channel yesterday was a tragedy, and our first thoughts have to be with the families and loved ones of those who died.
The exact circumstances of this incident remain under investigation, but we know a high percentage of these attempted crossings are facilitated by organised criminal networks, who do not care about the safety or security of those they transport. They think nothing of putting vulnerable people in incredibly dangerous situations, just so they can exploit them for profit.
A French judicial investigation into these deaths is now underway and we have offered our French counterparts the full support and resources of the NCA. Our international liaison officers are already working closely with French law enforcement partners.
Together we are determined to find those responsible for these deaths so that they can be held to account for their actions.
A fresh body had been found in the English channel, according to reports from the French newspaper La Voix Du Nord.
430 people “at risk of drowning the Mediterranean”
Hundreds of people are at risk of drowning in the Mediterranean, in a boat off the coast of north Africa that is currently disintegrating, according to Alarm Phone.
In a reminder that the Channel is not the only European sea where people are continuing to die as they try to make desperate crossings, a new post by Alarm Phone says there are about 430 on board the boat, including dozens of children.
Alarm Phone is a hotline for people on boats in distress. It does not coordinate or undertake rescues, but raises awareness of crises. The post said that activists had repeatedly informed authorities in Rome and Malta of the emergency. “MRCC Rome has informed us that they were not the ‘competent authority’ in this case, while RCC Malta simply hangs up the phone when we try to relay information on the case,” it says.
Read more here.
Jeremy Corbyn has called on the government to concentrate on the causes of mass migration, rather than trying to stop people getting to the UK.
During the Commons debate on yesterday’s tragedy in the Channel, the former leader of the Labour party, who currently sits as an independent MP, said: “Does the home secretary (Priti Patel) accept that the only way in which people traffickers and gangs can operate is because of the absolute desperation of people across Europe and indeed across the world?
“And instead of concentrating on more frontiers, more barbed wire, more surveillance, not just in this country but all across Europe, what we should be doing is looking at the causes of asylum in the first place: the environmental disasters, the wars, the abuse of human rights, the poverty?”
Priti Patel replied that the government is working to address these issues with the international community, adding: “Migrants are not just in the hands of people smugglers, they are travelling through safe countries where there are functioning asylum systems in these safe countries where they could claim asylum. That also is something that all international partners should be supporting.”
Amnesty International has called on the UK government to “take decisive action” to prevent more deaths in the Channel, as it warned that the dangerous journeys take place because the government will not provide a safe alternative for people to exercise their right to claim asylum.
In a statement responding to the quarterly immigration statistics, released earlier on Thursday, Amnesty said deaths of people crossing the Channel have risen because the government provides no safe and legal routes for people to enter the UK.
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights director, said:
In the wake of the devastating tragedy at the Channel yesterday, the UK government must urgently take decisive action to prevent more loss of life.
The UK must make it a priority to share responsibility with other countries to receive people into its asylum system – they must do this by providing safe and legal routes and encourage others to do the same.
We must remember that dangerous journeys take place because the government provides no safe alternative for people to exercise their right to seek asylum here.
The Afghanistan Citizenship Resettlement Scheme is one example of the government’s fundamental failure to provide safe routes – a scheme announced in August that has still not opened – ministers cannot even guarantee it will open anytime soon.
The UK’s failure to play its part in providing protection to people who are fleeing conflict and persecution is even more distressing at a time when the Home Office is trying to push through its draconian nationality and borders bill. This new policy will further exacerbate the asylum system and continue to punish and exclude people seeking safety.
If the government is truly concerned with tackling these gangs and their abuse of people, they must set up safe asylum routes, so people no longer need to depend on smugglers.
We desperately need a new approach to asylum – including genuine Anglo-French efforts to devise safe asylum routes, a major overhaul of the painfully slow applications system, an end to the use of dangerous and unsuitable accommodation facilities like Napier Barracks, and a political approach based on real humanity.
Priti Patel has said she will ask the BBC and other media to reflect on their use of language after widespread use of the term “migrant” to describe the people who drowned in the Channel on Wednesday.
The home secretary made the undertaking after an intervention by the SNP MP Brendan O’Hara, who said: “Last night I tuned in to the BBC 10 o’clock news to get the latest on this terrible disaster and I was absolutely appalled when a presenter informed me that around 30 migrants had drowned.
“Migrants don’t drown. People drown. Men, women and children drown.
“So will the secretary of state join me in asking the BBC News editorial team and any other news outlet thinking of using that term to reflect on their use of such dehumanising language and afford these poor people the respect that they deserve.”
Patel said: “Even during the Afghan operations and Op Pitting I heard a lot of language that quite frankly seemed to be inappropriate around people who were fleeing.
“So yes, I will.”
The EU commissioner in charge of migration is to speak to her French counterpart about the migration crisis in the Channel, writes Jennifer Rankin, the Guardian’s Brussels correspondent.
Ylva Johansson, a Swedish Social Democrat in charge of the EU’s migration policy, will meet Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, later on Thursday to discuss how the EU can help France deal with people crossing the English Channel in small boats
Johansson suggested there could be more EU funds for France via the EU border agency, Frontex.
What more can we do from the European Commission? We can support even more from Frontex. We can support financially and I will talk to the French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, later this afternoon to discuss this directly with him.
Of course we need European cooperation and help and support to prevent these kind of tragedies from happening.
It’s a tragedy for each life that is being lost. That is why it is so important to prevent these extremely dangerous journeys.
The French President Emmanuel Macron has called for an emergency EU meeting since the tragedy where at least 27 people lost their lives, including three children and a pregnant woman.
EU home affairs ministers are due to meet on 9 December, a meeting the UK would have taken part in before Brexit.
Lewis Goodall, the policy editor of BBC Newsnight, has tweeted an updated breakdown of the 27 casualties of Wednesday’s tragedy.
A survivor of the perilous journey from Syria to the UK has criticised the lack of refugees’ voices in the debate on migration.
Ahmad Al-Rashid, originally from the wartorn city of Aleppo, was granted refugee status after he arrived in the UK in the back of a lorry following a perilous 55-day journey that involved sea crossings and a stay in the Calais “jungle”.
According to his own tweets, he had been booked to speak on BBC Radio 4 this morning, but the booking was cancelled at the last minute.
“Just have been informed by the BBC that they won’t be speaking with me this morning as they ‘needed to change some of the items’,” he posted on the microblogging site.
“Not a single voice of people who lived through those journeys and know what it means to leave everything behind. The narrative on migration is so toxic and politicised beyond disgusting,” he added.
Patel ‘makes offer of joint Channel patrols with France’
Priti Patel has told MPs she has once again made an offer to her French counterpart to begin joint patrols to prevent people attempting to cross the Channel by boat.
In a statement to the Commons this afternoon, the home secretary said she had earlier spoken with Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, in an effort to find solutions to the developing crisis.
“I’ve literally just spoken again with my French counterpart, Minister Darmanin, and I’ve once again reached out and made my offer very clear to France in terms of joint France and UK cooperation, joint patrols to prevent these dangerous journeys from taking place,” Patel told MPs.
“I’ve offered to work with France to put officers on the ground and do absolutely whatever is necessary to secure the area so that vulnerable people do not risk their lives by getting into unseaworthy boats.”
Patel said there was “no quick fix” to the migrant crisis, but added that she was glad Emmanuel Macron, the French president, had “indicated his determination to stop the vile people smuggling gangs” and to work closely with all partners across Europe.
“What happened yesterday was a dreadful shock, it was not a surprise but it is also a reminder of how vulnerable people are put at peril when in the hands of criminal gangs,” Patel said. “There is also no quick fix. This is about addressing long-term pull factors, smashing the criminal gangs that treat human beings as cargo and tackling supply chains.”
As we mourn those who have died in the most horrendous circumstances I hope the whole house can come together with this simple message that crossing the Channel in a small boat is not the way to reach this country, Patel concludes.
The government’s new plan for immigration, which will be put into law through the nationality and borders bill. will address “underlying and core factors” by bringing in a range of measures to handle migration, including life sentences for people smugglers, says Patel.
However, the authorities are not waiting until the bill passes. She says the national crime agency is taking action at every level and claims it has dismantled 17 organised crime groups.
“This is a complicated issue and there is no simple fix.”
The UK has given “generous and unflinching support” to France to deal with the crisis, Patel says.
Given the chance traffickers will always find people to exploit and manipulate. Some of them don’t even know they are coming to the UK, Patel says.
Priti Patel is beginning her statement to the Commons on the tragedy in the Channel yesterday.
Information is still being gathered about the situation in France, she says.