CALAIS, FRANCE – Europe’s top migration officials are holding an emergency meeting on Sunday in the French port of Calais to find better ways to combat migrant smuggling, after 27 people died trying. crossed the English Channel to England in an overcrowded inflatable boat.
UK officials will be conspicuously absent from the meeting at Calais Town Hall, after Wednesday’s shipwreck led to a new political crisis between Britain and France. Neighbors accused each other of not doing enough to deter people from taking the dangerous journey.
France is carrying out a national organized crime investigation into the shipwreck, the deadliest migrant accident on the Channel. Iraqi Kurds and at least one Somali were among those on board, though most have yet to be identified.
Government ministers from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France will meet in Calais with officials from the European Union and EU border agency Frontex and police agency Europol.
They are focusing on smuggling networks, who charge between 3,000 and 7,000 euros for the journey across the Channel. French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said a car with a German tag had been seized in connection with the investigation.
Aid groups argue for more coordinated, humane asylum policies rather than just extra police. In camps along the French coast, groups of people from Sudan and Kurds from Iran and Iraq gathered under the freezing rain, waiting for their chance to cross the English Channel. They were undeterred by Wednesday’s death or increased beach patrols.
The number of migrants trying to cross the canal by small boat has skyrocketed this year, amid the pandemic and post-Brexit travel restrictions. Overall, however, the number of people emigrating to the UK is low compared to other European countries.