Channel migrant crossing – latest: Tory peer slams ‘shameful’ crisis response as vigil held for victims

Migrant boats on shores of Dover after Channel crossing deaths

A Tory peer who had fled war-torn Bosnia in the 1990s has branded the UK and France’s response to the migrant crisis as “shameful”.

Arminka Helic, who served as a senior adviser to William Hague during his time as foreign secretary, commented following the deaths of at least 27 people who were on a dinghy that capsized in the English Channel.

She told Times Radio: “We shouldn’t be having a ding-dong ping-pong with people whose destinies are connected to the most horrible experiences that they would have had and they are looking for a better life, or they’re looking simply for safety.”

It comes as PM Boris Johnson’s government is putting pressure on France to accept its offer of combined UK-French police and border force patrols across the Channel, to prevent another incident.

After the PM made the offer to French president Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday, home secretary Priti Patel appeared in the Commons to insist she had “once again reached out” and made a “very clear offer” to her French counterpart, Gerald Darmanin, of combined efforts across the coast to “prevent these dangerous journeys from taking place”.

France previously declined such a move, citing sovereignty concerns, but Mr Macron today asked for Britain’s “help” to curb the number of people trying to make these perilous journeys.

Ms Patel told MPs there is “no quick fix” to solve the migrant crisis, and called on Britain’s “international partners” to engage in a “coordinated effort” to crack down on criminal gangs.

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Candlelit vigil in Calais for drowned migrants

A vigil is taking place outside the port of Calais for at least 27 people who died crossing the English Channel in a dinghy that capsized.

(AFP via Getty Images)

Activists and members of associations defending migrants’ rights have unfurled a banner that reads “309 dead on the France UK border since 1999” – listing all the names of known deceased asylum seekers.


Other attendees to the vigil in Richelieu Park lit candles and laid tributes for at least 10 men, seven women and three children who lost their lives yesterday.


Lamiat Sabin25 November 2021 18:35


Man’s body found washed up on beach near Calais

The body of a man who died while crossing the English Channel was found washed up on a beach in France today.

It was found in Sangatte, close to Calais, reports Kent Online.

The news outlet published a photograph of the body wrapped in a white sheet on the back of a specialist off-road vehicle after it was recovered by police and fire crews from the beach.

On Wednesday, at least 27 asylum seekers – 17 men, three children and seven women, one of whom was pregnant – died after an overcrowded dinghy had capsized.

On the same day, fishermen found 15 bodies floating in the Channel.

Lamiat Sabin25 November 2021 17:50


Tory peer and former refugee says crisis response ‘shameful’

The UK and France’s response to the migrant crisis has been branded “shameful” by a Tory peer.

Arminka Helic served as a senior adviser to William Hague during his time as foreign secretary.

She had fled to Britain from Bosnia during the 1990s war.

Baroness Helic told Times Radio: “We shouldn’t be having a ding-dong ping-pong with people whose destinies are connected to the most horrible experiences that they would have had and they are looking for a better life or they’re looking simply for safety.”

Read the full report by our political editor Andrew Woodcock

Lamiat Sabin25 November 2021 17:32


Ministers’ attitudes towards migrants ‘disturbing’ – Phillips

Labour MP Jess Phillips has slammed the government as not caring about migrants crossing the Channel from France.

In writing for The Independent, she says the deaths of 27 people was “predicted by many” and that migrants will continue to attempt to travel to the UK despite ministers’ “flimsy” rhetoric.

She adds that home secretary Priti Patel’s Borders Bill “just allows the government to look tough” and that, if passed, it “won’t stop the boats in the Channel.”

Ms Phillips says: “The solution to the refugee and migrant crisis has got to be found in alliances, diplomacy, investment and aid to enable more people to live the kind of lives elsewhere that we expect in Britain.

“The only way to be tough on migration is to be tough on the root causes of migration.”

Lamiat Sabin25 November 2021 16:46


Watch: Why are so many migrants crossing Channel in small boats?

Channel tragedy: Why are so many migrants crossing in small boats?

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 16:20


Vigils to be held in France for 27 people killed on boat

Vigils will be held across parts of France on Thursday night, honouring the lives of the 27 people who died trying to cross the Channel to Britain on Wednesday night when their boat sank.

Zoe Tidman, reporting from Calais, says churches in northern towns are being encouraged to ring out their bells to coincide with the Calais remembrance gathering at 6.30pm.

Other participating regions include Dunkirk – where the boat left from – at 6pm and Paris’ Place de la Republique at 8pm.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 16:10


Reverend issues reminder migrants ‘are not the criminals’

A reverend has made it clear migrants, refugees and asylum seekers should not be viewed as criminals – insisting it is displaced people who have been taken advantage of by the “actual criminals”.

Reverend Dr Jonathan Arnold, director of communities at the Canterbury Diocese, says asylum seekers are often “dealing with absolutely desperate situations”.

He also said they have “have stories of fleeing from situations that would make us horrified”.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 15:59


PM’s Channel remarks ‘disingenuous,’ says human rights lawyer

Let’s get some expert commentary on the Channel migrant tragedy.

Kingsley Napley partner Rebecca Niblock, who is a specialist in international criminal law and human rights, says:

“Boris Johnson’s suggestion that the tragic deaths in the Channel on Wednesday show the necessity of accelerating the measures within the Nationality and Borders Bill is a disingenuous claim.

“As my colleague Elspeth Guild and I have pointed out before, while international law imposes a duty to rescue persons in distress at sea, the nationality and borders bill seeks to provide immunity to those who fail to comply with their duties under international law.

“In practice it will protect Border officials engaged in pushing back boats in the Channel whose actions could result in deaths at sea. Rather than enacting these provisions, the government must provide safe routes for migrants seeking refuge in the UK.”

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 15:42


Opinion: ‘Using playground politics over Channel tragedy is senseless’

Some smart analysis from our political columnist Andrew Grice now.

The tragic loss of 27 lives in the Channel is a painful reminder of the failure of politicians on both sides of it. Although Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron have slightly softened their usual rhetoric, there is little sign of them finding the common solutions their countries need to prevent a repeat of the disaster.

The tragedy has not ended the pointless blame game over the small boats. Downing Street said the prime minister and French president agreed in their phone call last night on “stepping up joint efforts to prevent these deadly crossings”. But the Elysee Palace said Macron urged Johnson to stop “politicising” the crisis for “domestic gain”. In turn, UK sources accused Macron of “playing politics with people’s lives.”

Post-Brexit tensions are a barrier to co-operation. The UK would like to be able to return migrants to the EU, as it could – on paper, at least – while it was a member of the bloc. It raised the idea in the Brexit negotiations but there were no takers on the EU side. Macron has accused the UK government of swinging between “partnership and provocation.” UK ministers cite a leaked letter from Jean Castex, the French prime minister, suggesting the EU must make clear that “leaving the union is more damaging than remaining in it”.

Read his thinking in full:

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 15:39


Watch: Patel ‘not achieving anything’ on Channel crossings, says Starmer

Patel ‘not achieving anything’ on Channel crossings, says Starmer

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 15:33


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