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Small Boat Crossings: Five People Dead, Including Child

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More than 120,000 crossings on small boats have been recorded since recording began in 2018.

Five people, including a child, have died while attempting to cross the English Channel on a small boat, hours after the Rwanda asylum bill was greenlighted by parliament.

French officials reported on Tuesday that an overloaded boat, carrying 112 migrants, left the French shores in the early hours of the morning but experienced engine difficulties shortly after.

As a result, a number of people fell into the water and five were later pronounced dead by the French authorities. Three men, a woman and a girl, were killed in the accident.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said the UK government was doing everything possible to stop the illegal small boat crossings to the UK.

“These tragedies have to stop,” he said on social media platform X, adding that the goal was to break the business model of people smuggling gangs and end risk to people’s lives.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the “tragic” incident “underscores” the need for the deterrent effect of the Rwanda scheme, which is now set to become law.

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Under the bill, migrants who enter Britain illegally, including those who crossed the English Channel in small boats, will be deported to the East African nation.

“We introduced the Rwanda Bill to deter vulnerable migrants from making perilous crossings and break the business model of the criminal gangs who exploit them. The passing of this legislation will allow us to do that and make it very clear that if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay,” the prime minister said on Tuesday.
The government will now focus on getting flights off the ground, with departures expected to take off by July.

‘Absolute Tragedy’

The latest deaths in the English channel add to hundreds of reported deaths at sea of migrants trying to reach the UK. According to the Border Force, more than 120,000 crossings have been recorded since recording began in 2018.

Charity worker Sandrine, who witnessed the incident on Tuesday, told Sky News: “I saw them bringing in the bodies and the father (of the girl who died) fell into my arms. I said to myself: ‘This can’t be possible. He has a child.’ They tried to resuscitate her but she had died. The helicopters arrived and then there were four other bodies. The father saw his daughter die before him.”

Former Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, who resigned last year over the Rwanda Bill, called the incident an “intolerable tragedy.”

Mr. Jenrick, who believes that the Rwanda legislation “does not go far enough,” suggested that the EU legal framework prevents seizures of small boats.

He urged the EU to grant member states “legal cover to seize these unseaworthy boats that are costing precious lives.”

“The EU talk about ‘intensifying the fight against people smugglers’ but their actions never match their rhetoric. We have strong intelligence. The issue is their legal framework that prevents seizures. Tragically, there will be more preventable deaths until the EU changes,” said Mr. Jenrick.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called the death of five people an “absolute tragedy,” and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said that criminal gangs were profiting from smuggling people across the English Channel and had to be stopped.

Home Affairs Committee Chair Dame Diana Johnson has suggested that the Rwanda policy alone will not solve the small boats issue.

Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, Ms. Johnson said a number of additional policies was necessary, including safer legal routes, clearing the backlog of asylum seekers and better cooperation with European nations.

Since Mr. Sunak took office, the government has agreed a package of measures with France to increase the number of French beach patrol officers. The government also strengthened its partnership with Turkey to curb organised crime and disrupt supply chain of boat parts.

PA Media contributed to this report. 

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