Government under fresh pressure to tackle Channel crossings after 6 deaths

Campaigners described the incident as an ‘appalling and preventable tragedy’ while MPs called for action to stop criminal gangs facilitating the boats

The Government is under renewed pressure to tackle the crisis of migrant crossings in the Channel following the deaths of six people after a boat sank off the coast of France.

Campaigners described the incident as an “appalling and preventable tragedy” while MPs from across the political spectrum called for action to stop criminal gangs profiting from the dangerous journeys.

Some 59 people were rescued by British and French coastguards on Saturday after an overloaded vessel carrying migrants got into difficulty near Sangatte.

According to the accounts of survivors, around 65 or 66 had originally boarded the boat, France’s Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea said.

A statement from the French authorities suggested it had been one of a number of migrant vessels which set off in hopes of reaching the UK coast.

Writing in the Sunday Express, Conservative backbencher and former party  chairman Sir Jake Berry said: “We must put a stop to the vile people smugglers who trade in human misery and whose actions result in the loss of life.”

Meanwhile shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said action to deter criminal gangs facilitating the journeys was “desperately” necessary.

Care4Calais said the incident was an “appalling and preventable tragedy” while the Refugee Council urged the Government to focus on creating an “orderly and humane asylum system”.

Head of bargaining at the Public and Commercial Services union Paul O’Connor accused the Government of having “blood on its hands” and showing “no desire” to prevent the crossings.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman described the incident as a “tragic loss of life” and said she had chaired a meeting with Border Force officials later on Saturday.

It comes after the Government was accused of allowing its “small boats week” of linked announcements on immigration to descend into farce following the removal of dozens of asylum seekers from the Bibby Stockholm barge.

Senior Conservative backbencher David Davis said the “startling incompetence” of the Home Office had been revealed after all 39 on board the 500-capacity vessel were disembarked due to the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply.

However, ministers intend to push on with plans to hire more barges to house asylum seekers, as well as student halls and former office blocks, The Telegraph reported.

The people who had been on the Bibby Stockholm, which had been billed as a cheaper alternative to expensive hotels for those awaiting the outcome of their claims, are now back being housed in alternative accommodation.

The Home Office has said the health and welfare of asylum seekers “remains of the utmost priority” and that the evacuation took place as a precautionary measur with all protocol and advice followed.

Home Office figures show 755 crossed the Channel in small boats on Thursday – the highest daily number so far this year – confirming the total since 2018 has passed 100,000.

Some 343 people in six boats were detected crossing on Friday, taking the provisional total for the year so far to more than 16,000.

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