British patrols along the French coast are needed to prevent migrant boats from trying to cross the canal, the prime minister has told France after 27 people died near Calais.
Five women and a girl were among the victims after their boat capsized in the water. One of the dead women was later reported to have been pregnant.
Two people were rescued and four human traffickers have been arrested, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has said.
Boris Johnson spoke with Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday night in the wake of the tragedy – the worst incident of its kind in the Channel since the current migrant crisis began.
Immigration Compliance Minister Tom Pursglove confirmed that Mr Johnson had renewed an earlier offer to send British police and border forces officers on joint patrols with the French.
He said Wednesday’s deaths showed the two countries need to deepen their cooperation when dealing with the issue.
“It’s like we’ve previously offered to host and help with joint patrols,” he told BBC2’s Newsnight on Wednesday.
“I think it could be invaluable to help solve this problem. I really hope the French will reconsider that offer.”
Downing Street has said they agree to “keep all options on the table”.
After the leaders’ phone calls, a Downing Street spokesman said they “agreed it was urgent” to step up joint efforts to stop smuggling gangs.
That migrant crisis has become an increasingly tense topic for Britain and France.
After a meeting of the Cobra Emergency Committee, Mr Johnson said it was clear that French patrols “have not been enough”, despite £ 54 million of British support.
Conditions in the canal were cool but calm on Wednesday, which may explain why so many people braved the crossing to the UK.
The deaths came after a “very fragile” inflatable boat capsized, with fishermen reporting more than a dozen bodies motionless in the sea. Private ambulances arrived at a warehouse in Calais on Wednesday night, where identification of the victims is underway.
Little prosecutor Carole Etienne, whose office oversees the investigation, said the investigation could involve more countries as more passenger information emerges.
Darmanin described the boat as “like a pool you blow up in your garden”.
Dover Strait is the world’s busiest sailing route, and more than 25,700 people have completed the perilous journey to the UK this year.
That is three times the total number for 2020, according to data collected by the PA news agency.
Meanwhile, more than 47,000 crossing attempts have taken place, with 7,800 migrants rescued from the water since January 1, 2021, according to the French president.
Macron said: “France will not let the canal become a cemetery.”
He has called for an urgent meeting between European ministers and an “immediate strengthening” of Frontex, the EU’s border agency.
He also said that France had been working with Britain “for several months” to fight human traffickers and that 1,552 had been arrested.
Enver Solomon, executive director of the Refugee Council, called on the government to reconsider its approach to migration.
“A tragedy of this magnitude is certainly the wake-up call our government needs to change its approach and finally commit to expanding safe routes for those men, women and children who are in desperate need of protection,” he said. he said.
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