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Thirty-one refugees drown in English Channel, UK PM blames people trafficking gangs

Migrants, including women and children, in a dinghy, illegally cross the English Channel from France to Britain on September 11, 2020. - The number of migrants crossing the English Channel -- which is 33,8 km (21 miles) at the closest point in the Straits of Dover -- in small inflatable boats has spiralled over the summer of the 2020. According to authorities in northern France some 6,200 migrants have attempted the crossing between January 1 and August 31, 2020, compared with 2,294 migrants for the whole of 2019. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP) (Photo by SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images)
Migrants, including women and children, in a dinghy, illegally cross the English Channel from France to Britain on September 11, 2020 [SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images]

Thirty-one refugees tragically drowned in the English Channel today, after their boat sank near Calais, in the highest single loss of life since records began, the BBC reported.

The International Organisation for Migrants (IOM) said the tragic sinking of the boat was the highest death toll since it began collecting data in 2014.

Five women, including a young girl, were said to have been passengers aboard the boat.

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, expressed his regret, saying he was 'appalled' by what happened, and was quick to blame human trafficking gangs, saying the deaths were a 'disaster' and these human trafficking gangs were 'getting away with murder'.

Johnson vowed to crack down on the traffickers organising crossings across the Channel, and said: "It also shows how vital it is that we now step up our efforts to break the business model of the gangsters who are sending people to sea in this way."

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However, left-leaning MPs slammed the government for maintaining a hostile environment, and demanded safe passage for refugees fleeing persecution.

London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, demanded the government worked with the French authorities to establish safe passage for refugees. He said on Twitter: This is an utter tragedy. No one should have to risk their life in this way. Those seeking sanctuary need safe routes – the Government must work with the French authorities to provide them.

Labour MP, Zara Sultana, said: "More than 30 people – including at least 5 children – have reportedly drowned in the Channel after their boat capsized."

"I am heartbroken. Please let this be the moment we provide safe routes to welcome refugees to Britain, instead of endlessly whipping up hate and fear."

Former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn said: "This is tragic news. All governments must stop the inhumane treatment of refugees and migrants, and the UK Government must end the 'hostile environment.'"

The 'Hostile environment' policy was implemented by then Home Secretary, Theresa May, in 2012, with the aim to make the lives of migrants or refugees unbearable to deter them from entering the UK illegally.

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In 2021, at least 25,750 migrants have made the dangerous crossing from France to the UK via the English Channel – one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, about three times more than 2020.

The French MP for Calais said the English Channel is on the brink of becoming an "open sky graveyard" unless the UK and France are able to work together and come to a solution.

Pierre-Henri Dumont said: "We all need, both sides of the Channel, to stop making migrants an internal argument with internal policies and try to figure out how to find a solution."

"The Channel right now is becoming the new Mediterranean Sea, it's like an open sky graveyard. We must find a way to end it.

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