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English Channel deaths: Government has ‘learned nothing’ since 31 people died in tragedy

The government has “learned nothing” from the avoidable deaths of 31 people in the English Channel, charities have said on the anniversary of the tragedy.

On 24 November, 2021, a rubber dinghy with 34 people packed on board sank as they tried to make the dangerous journey to the UK from France.

The catastrophe – the worst ever migrant disaster in the Dover Strait – claimed the lives of most of those aboard, including an unborn baby.

A vigil for those who died will be held in Parliament Square this evening, organised by refugee charity Care4Calais, while another is expected in Dunkirk, France.

The government said its thoughts are with the victims’ families and claimed that its controversial Nationality and Borders Act is beginning to have an impact on people smugglers.

Zana Mamand Mohammad, whose brother lost his life in the disaster, said: “My teenage brother, one year after your disappearance, I have tried non-stop to find anything about you and I have knocked on every door.

“I still stare at my phone hoping for a message or call from you. I am doing my best to obtain justice for you and your friends.”

EMBARGOED TO 0001 MONDAY NOVEMBER 14 File photo dated 09/10/22 of a group of people thought to be migrants being brought in to Dover, Kent. Tens of thousands of migrants are waiting more than a year for a decision on their asylum claim, with hundreds waiting over five years, figures show. Issue date: Monday November 14, 2022.
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Tens of thousands of people have made the dangerous crossing to the UK since last year’s tragedy.

In the days following the incident there was public outcry and politicians from both sides of the Channel were quick to condemn people traffickers and demand solutions.

But in the 365 days since those 31 people drowned, nearly 44,000 have made the perilous crossing and the numbers are only going up, according to data from the PA news agency.

“The government has learned nothing from last year’s tragedy,” Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, told Sky News.

He accused the government of continuing to “pile hostility on to people seeking asylum”.

He added: “There are no safe routes for most people to reach the UK, a snowballing backlog, tens of thousands of people warehoused in hotels and hundreds of millions wasted on a Rwanda deal, drones, a work ban and other cruel and ineffective deterrent schemes.

“This hostility just makes it more likely that there will be a tragedy – whether in the Channel or among people seeking asylum living in poverty and isolation in the UK.”

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France and UK criticised over deaths

A preliminary report into the tragedy claimed that French and British emergency services had passed responsibility on to each other during the horrific incident.

It alleged that passengers first called rescue services around 2am, and then continued for almost two hours, begging them to intervene.

“Today we remember men, women and children who died in the Channel when seeking safety in the UK,” Steve Valdez-Symonds, refugee and migrant rights director for Amnesty International UK, told Sky News.

“This tragedy could and should have been avoided if the governments on both sides of these waters had prioritised the lives, welfare and rights of these people – including their right to seek asylum.

“The simple truth is that people fleeing war and persecution will continue to make these perilous journeys – whether by boat or other means – if governments refuse to share responsibility for providing safe access to properly functioning asylum systems.”

Read more:
Families of Channel tragedy victims hold funerals in Iraq

Priti Patel says ‘no quick fix’ to stopping migrant crossings

A government spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with the families of all of those who lost their lives in the tragic incident last November.

“We cannot have a repeat of this devastating event which is why we are working with our international partners to disrupt the people smuggling gangs behind these dangerous crossings who are putting lives at risk with every journey they arrange.

“As is standard practice in such circumstances, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch is conducting a safety investigation focusing on the emergency response to the incident, which HM Coastguard and the Home Office are fully co-operating with.”


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