Channel rescue: Suella Braverman says government must ‘end these crossings’ after four people die in boat capsize – as it happened – The Guardian

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Four people are confirmed dead after trying to cross the Channel early on Wednesday morning, according to a government statement.
A UK government spokesperson said:

At 0305 today, authorities were alerted to an incident in the Channel concerning a migrant small boat in distress. After a coordinated search and rescue operation led by HM Coastguard, it is with regret that there have been four confirmed deaths as a result of this incident, investigations are ongoing and we will provide further information in due course. This is a truly tragic incident. Our thoughts are with the friends and families of all those who have lost their lives today.
Government sources told the Guardian that there may be further casualties. Earlier, we reported 43 people were rescued during an ongoing major search and rescue operation off the coast of Kent.
Thanks for following the live updates. The blog will be closing shortly, so below is a summary of the main news of the day after at least four people died trying to cross the English Channel.
At least four people have died and 43 people have been rescued after trying to cross the Channel in freezing conditions overnight. A UK government spokesperson said at 3am authorities were alerted to an incident in the Channel concerning a small boat in distress.
The home secretary Suella Braverman expressed her “profound sadness” and called the incident a “sobering reminder” of why the government has to end these crossings. She said: “People do not need to seek asylum if they are already in a safe country, it is vital, literally vital, that we end the illegal crossings in the Channel.”
In the House of Commons on Wednesday, prime minister Rishi Sunak expressed sorrow at the tragic loss of human life. Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “Our prayers go out to those who capsized in the freezing waters of the Channel last night.”
The major search and rescue operation remains under way off the coast of Kent and comes a day after Rishi Sunak told MPs he would clear the asylum backlog by the end of 2023. In the Commons on Tuesday, Sunak outlined a set of policies including law changes to criminalise and then remove tens of thousands of people who claim asylum after travelling to the UK in small boats, and a deal with Albania to aid removals to the Balkan state.
The problem of small boat Channel crossings won’t be solved unless a pan-European agreement and approach is taken, said Conservative MP Roger Gale. Gale said nearly 50 people tried to cross the Channel from Calais and were blown off course heading for Dungeness by the time they were finally intercepted. Women and children were among those taken to the hospital, he added.
The majority of people coming across the Channel are people who are “fleeing war, and violence and bloodshed”, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, said. “Unless we see this as an issue which is driven by the fact that there is violence and bloodshed and persecution across the world, we won’t be able to deal with it.”
The MP for Kent, Natalie Elphicke, urged prime minister Rishi Sunak to meet with the French president to take action and “bring this to an end”. Elphicke told Sky News: “It is a matter of great urgency that the boats are stopped entering the water from France, people are safe in France.”
The founder of the refugee charity Care4Calais, Clare Moseley, said: “There are no words to express our horror and grief at today’s tragedy. A full year on from 32 people losing their lives in the Channel, our government has done nothing to prevent further deaths and so has failed both the refugees who need our help and our country.”
Independent maritime expert Matthew Schanck, who conducted research into the drowning in the Channel last year when at least 27 people lost their lives, said: “I’m just in shock. We said this would happen again and sadly it has.”
Suella Braverman has insisted that the government will “end these crossings” after confirming that four people had died after their small boat capsized in the Channel.
The home secretary said she would set up “safe and legal routes” for asylum seekers only after dealing with the small boats crisis, amid demands from MPs for new pathways to apply for refugee status.
Braverman addressed the House of Commons hours after a damaged vessel was rescued off the Kent coast carrying dozens of people who had set sail from France for the UK.
To a sombre chamber, she said: “These are the days we dread. Crossing the channel in unseaworthy vessels is a lethally dangerous endeavour.
Read more here:
A feted restaurateur, a senior doctor: Sunak’s cruel plan would have deported both
When you consider Rishi Sunak’s latest plans to tackle Channel crossings, think of Imad.
Because Imad’s Syrian Kitchen in central London has received a lot of critic accolades of late, not least for the “cheerful brightness that suffuses his food”. Yet Imad Alarnab’s story is one of survival, of his perilous, irregular journey from war-torn Syria to reach safety in the UK.
There are many others like him. They risk everything, as is all too clear today, as the Kent coastguard responds to a terrible incident in the Channel, where four people in a small boat, on the icy water, have lost their lives.
When my own child was in hospital earlier this year, he was treated by a doctor who travelled with his parents overland from Iraq to the UK seeking asylum. Today he is a consultant at one of our country’s leading hospitals.
Read more here:
The problem of small boat Channel crossings won’t be solved unless a pan-European agreement and approach is taken, says the Conservative MP Roger Gale.
“Unless and until we have a pan-European agreement and approach to this issue, we’re not going to solve it. It’s a geopolitical problem, it’s not an Anglo-French problem,” Gale told Sky News.
Gale said nearly 50 people tried to cross the Channel from Calais and were blown off course heading for Dungeness by the time they were finally intercepted on Wednesday. Confirming government reports that four people have died, Gale added that many people have been taken to the hospital, including women and children.
“This was an absolute tragedy … caused of course by the people traffickers who are making a killing, literally in this case, out of human misery,” said Gale, who also commended prime minister Rishi Sunak’s on taking a few “first good steps” in his policy announcements yesterday.
When asked by Sky News what would deter people from making the crossing, Gale said:

If people are desperate enough and determined enough, and are exploited and able to pay or at least pay part of the money that is demanded of them, then nothing will deter them.
The home secretary updated MPs on Wednesday on the boat that capsized in the Channel overnight, resulting in at least four deaths. She vowed to end such crossings and “destroy the business model” of people smugglers who profit from those wanting to reach the UK.
Watch the video here:
Home secretary Suella Braverman has said that the government wants to investigate all small boats and to arrest pilots that it can identify.

She was responding to a question in the Commons from the Labour chair of the home affairs select committee, Dame Diana Johnson, who asked what more can be done to ensure those responsible are “brought to book”.
In the Commons, Natalie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover, called for “joint patrols on the French beaches”.

She said:
secretary Suella Braverman replied that the “agreement with the French was a step forward but it is not the end point”, with constructive dialogue continuing.

She said it would deliver “an increased number of personnel and resources, who will be focused on the issue of intelligence sharing, interception, prevention, investigation and, ultimately, the law enforcement response”.
Suella Braverman has told the Commons that last year, joint efforts with France prevented more than 23,000 unnecessary journeys by boat. This year, the number is 31,000.

She said:

That in itself is insufficient, but it’s a step in the right direction. The agreement that we have struck afresh with the French will go further.
She also sought to emphasise the Conservatives’ split with Labour on refugee and asylum policy, saying:

Our capacity in this country is not infinite. We cannot accept everybody who wishes to come to this country.
That is a reality of the world, and it’s a reality of life. The other party would suggest otherwise.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, has said in a statement that deterrence does not work.

He said:

The time for a more rational conversation about these Channel crossings is long overdue. At every turn, those who can take meaningful steps to address it in ways which will make a difference simply decline to do so.
Instead of taking compassionate and careful measures, they turn instead to rhetoric and bluster, and choose unworkable punitive measures and deterrence despite all the evidence that they just don’t work. That evidence is never more apparent than today, with lives lost, hopes and dreams shattered, families in mourning.
Home secretary Suella Braverman has said that proposed legislation to deter Channel crossings “will save lives”.

She said:

We will introduce new legislation to make it unambiguously clear that if someone comes to the UK illegally, they should not be able to remain here.
Instead, they can expect to be detained and swiftly returned either to their home country or to a safe country, where their claim for asylum will be considered.
Late or spurious claims and appeals will not be possible. Once someone has been removed, they will have no right to re-entry, settlement or citizenship.

This will act as a deterrent and it will save lives.
She said the UK will “create more safe and legal routes”, adding “people do not need to seek asylum if they are already in a safe country” and “it is … literally vital that we end the illegal crossings in the Channel”.

She added that the “largest-ever small boats deal with France” would help to tackle future crossings.

She said:

It was evident that we had to go much further, which is why the prime minister announced a new package yesterday.
It includes a new, permanent, unified small boats operational command, bringing together the military, civilian capabilities and the National Crime Agency.
Zehrah Hasan, advocacy director at the joint council for the welfare of immigrants (JCWI), has issued a statement calling for clearer visa pathways to prevent people risking their lives.

Last November we saw 31 people lose their lives in the Channel, and now we’re seeing history tragically repeat itself. Let’s be clear that these disasters are utterly avoidable, and a direct consequence of government failure to take a fair, compassionate and sensible approach to refugee protection.

People would not be risking their lives seeking safety here if there were clear visa pathways available to them. To prevent further avoidable tragedy, this government needs to stop playing politics with people’s lives and introduce the safe routes needed.
Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, is speaking about the incident in the House of Commons, and is calling for UK and France to do more to stop dangerous crossings.

She said:

The responsibility for the lives that have been lost in the Channel lies with the criminal gangs. They need to be caught, they need to be prosecuted, they need to be jailed for the loss of life in the cold sea. We need comprehensive action.
We gathered in this House just over a year ago to lament the loss of 27 lives. None of us want to do so again. We need action before more lives are lost in peril on the sea.
It is, of course, why the UK and France both need to act to stop these dangerous boat crossings.
Day after day, week after week, criminal gangs are putting lives at risk for money. The other brutal truth is that far from stopping those criminal gangs, those gangs have grown and grown.

The UK and French governments and authorities have failed to stop the criminal and smuggler and trafficking gangs proliferating around the Channel.

The action against those gangs has been too weak. There have been barely any prosecutions or convictions and barely any inroads into the smuggler gangs.
Medecins Sans Frontières has shared its response to the tragedy, in which it urges the government to ensure incidents like this do not happen again by avoiding a deterrence-based approach to asylum-seekers.
Natalie Roberts, executive director at MSF UK, said:

We are distressed to hear reports of a shipwreck in the Channel, where it has been confirmed that at least four people have lost their lives. Our thoughts are with the victims of this disaster, and the emergency services that are working to rescue the survivors.
The government needs to now take urgent measures to ensure tragedies like this do not happen again.
This means recognising that a cruel and punitive approach, such as that outlined by the prime minister yesterday, will not stop Channel crossings and will simply cause more suffering. As the Home Office’s own research shows, an approach built on deterrence only pushes desperate people into yet more dangerous routes. Men, women and children seeking safety will be forced into make even riskier journeys to get here, causing harm to their health and wellbeing, and inevitably resulting in more deaths.
The horrific incident that occurred in the Channel today was a consequence of a lack of safe routes. The prime minister’s proposals would effectively end the right for people fleeing war, persecution and violence to seek asylum in the UK, breaking with the refugee convention and shirking our international legal and moral obligations.
The home secretary expressed her “profound sadness” in the Commons on Wednesday after confirming the deaths of four people attempting to cross the Channel.
“I know that everyone in this house and across the country will join me in expressing our profound sadness and deepest sympathies for everyone affected by this terrible event,” said Suella Braverman.

Crossing the Channel in unseaworthy vessels is a lethally dangerous endeavour. It is for this reason above all that we are working so hard to destroy the business model of the people smugglers, evil, organised criminals who treat human beings as cargo.”
Citing the death of 27 people in the Channel last November, Braverman said today’s tragedy is a “sobering reminder” of why the government has to end these crossings. Braverman also said she spoke with her French counterpart, France’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin.
Braverman added:

It isn’t true that our capacity is limitless, we are already spending millions on hotels every day. People do not need to seek asylum if they are already in a safe country, it is vital, literally vital, that we end the illegal crossings in the channel.
“The UK and France both need to act to stop these dangerous boat crossings,” said shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper in the Commons.
“The UK and French governments and authorities have failed to stop the criminal and smuggler and trafficking gangs proliferating around the Channel,” said Cooper.

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