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‘The horror we dreaded’: Outpouring of emotion after migrant boat tragedy

By Michael Drummond, PA South East Correspondent
·3-min read

The deaths of two young children following the sinking of a migrant boat in the English Channel have led to renewed calls for change.

At least four people have died in the tragedy, believed to be the single biggest loss of life during the current migrant crisis.

The two children were aged five and eight while the others were adults, French authorities confirmed.

Charities say there is “no excuse for failing to act now” and called on the UK Government to create a legal route for refugees.

Bertrand Ringot, the mayor of Gravelines, south west of Dunkirk, described the deaths as “tragic”.

He added that as the end of the Brexit transition period approaches, he will call for more security resources in the area around the port.

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: “News that a five-year-old child has died at sea while trying to reach safety in the UK is the horror that we dreaded would come.

“Where is the decency and common humanity of the UK Government?

“How can they allow our children to perish in this way? It would be easy to create a legal route for refugees who reach northern France to seek asylum in the UK; there is no excuse for failing to act now.”

Mariam Kemple Hardy, head of campaigns at Refugee Action, said the incident was “absolutely heartbreaking”.

She added: “Our thoughts are with the people caught up in this horrible tragedy, their families, and the rescuers.

“No-one wants to see people make dangerous crossings but the Government’s hostile rhetoric does nothing to help.

“It must stop trying to look tough and urgently create more safe and legal routes for people to seek sanctuary in the UK.”

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds tweeted: “This is an absolute tragedy. Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones and people who have been injured.

“It is a heartbreaking reminder of the human cost of this crisis.”

Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “This is truly awful news – and it is even more distressing that children should be involved in this tragedy.

“The thought of children ending up in the cold waves is terrible.

“These boats are incredibly dangerous. The criminal gangs who organise journeys in these precarious dinghies are profiting from putting lives at risk and from other people’s desperation.

“The Home Affairs Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into Channel crossings and into the work that is urgently needed to prevent more lives being lost.”

Jon Featonby, refugee and asylum policy manager at British Red Cross, said: “While we still do not know the full impact of this tragedy, our hearts and thoughts go out to those on that boat today, and their friends and family who may not even yet know the fate of their loved ones.

“Sadly, we fear that we will continue to see people risking their lives to seek asylum in the UK.

“The people we speak to tell us they had no other choice but to come on boats or lorries across the Channel, because there were no other options for them.

“This is a global issue and the UK can and should be a driving force in bringing countries together to create responses that have saving lives at their heart.

“The Home Secretary recently outlined the urgent need for compassionate asylum reform, including the need for more safe routes to be introduced. The time to move on this is now.”