Appalling tragedy in English Channel ought to be a catalyst for change

News Letter editorial of Thursday November 25 2021:

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 12:27 am
Updated Thursday, 25th November 2021, 12:32 am
News Letter editorial

The deaths of 31 migrants including children in the English Channel is a terrible tragedy.

For there to have been a crossing in which people died would not have been a surprise, given the very sharp numbers of sailings in recent months and the great risks involved.

It is the scale of the deaths which makes it such a particularly horrifying incident.

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With hope this appalling outcome will be a catalyst for sudden change with regard to channel crossings.

The water separating France from England is 20 miles at its narrowest point, so that either country is easily visible from the coastline of the other.

It is also calmer and shallower water than the North Channel between Portpatrick in Scotland and Larne or Bangor in Northern Ireland.

For many years now, Calais has been a gathering point for migrants or refugees who want to reach the United Kingdom, which is one of the most desirable destinations for the destitute. And yet until recently few of them tried to reach these shores by small vessel.

Instead they hoped to get to Britain by stowing on to lorries or crossing the Channel Tunnel or some other such method. The channel is dangerous in part because it is a major international shipping lane.

Perhaps the success of recent crossings has led many more migrants to think lately that it is the way to go.

A number of things now need to happen.

First France should try to discourage gatherings around Calais, which it has never properly done (some people think this was in part a snub to the UK).

Second there needs to be a huge clampdown on, and search for, the smuggler gangs.

Third the UK needs to make clear that successful crossings will not lead to resettlement. That won’t be easy.

Deterrence is a difficult and unpalatable approach but it will help ultimately to save lives.

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