Five dead trying to cross English Channel hours after U.K. passes deportation law

This photo provided by the Prefecture Maritime du Nord et de la Manche shows migrants continuing their journey to Britain off northern France coast on April 23, 2024. Five people, including a child, died while trying to cross the English Channel from France to the U.K., French authorities said, just hours after the British government approved a migrant bill to deport some of those who entered the country illegally to Rwanda.
| Photo Credit: AP

Five persons, including a seven-year-old girl, died while attempting to cross the English Channel early on Tuesday morning, according to French authorities. The deaths occurred within hours of the British parliament passing a controversial law that would permit the deportation of those seeking asylum in the U.K. to Rwanda. The new law is primarily aimed at stopping migrants entering the U.K. on small boats crossing the Channel.

The overcrowded boat, carrying 110 people, left Wimereux, 32 km from Calais in France, as per a Reuters report. The boat stopped a few hundred metres from its origin, and several people fell into the water. According to the report, 47 people were brought back to land, and four admitted to the hospital. Another 57 individuals chose to stay on the boat heading to the U.K.

Also Read | Rishi Sunak says first migrant flight from U.K. to Rwanda will leave in 10-12 weeks

Mr. Sunak, who was on a trip to Warsaw on Tuesday, said the incident was “tragic” and said it underscored “why you need a deterrent”. A record number of individuals had arrived in the U.K. on small boats in the first quarter of 2024, according to U.K. government data.

“This Government is doing everything we can to end this trade, stop the boats and ultimately break the business model of the evil people smuggling gangs, so they no longer put lives at risk,” Home Secretary James Cleverly said on X.

The Safety of Rwanda Bill passed late on Monday night, after crossbench and opposition peers in the U.K. House of Lords stopped pressing for their amendments to go through in the final version of the Bill. Earlier in the process, the Upper House of parliament, where the Conservative Party of Mr. Sunak does not have a majority, had wanted to include amendments to the legislation exempting Afghans who had helped the U.K. military from deportation and setting up a committee to monitor the safety of Rwanda as a third country accepting asylum seekers.

Mr. Sunak, who said on Monday that the first flights carrying migrants to Rwanda would leave in 10-12 weeks, hailed the new law on as fundamentally changing the global equation on migration.

Core issue

“Our focus is to now get flights off the ground, and I am clear that nothing will stand in our way of doing that and saving lives,” he said. Migration is a core issue as the U.K. heads towards a general election and the plan to deport asylum seekers by flying them to Rwanda, has been in the works since 2022. However, the policy has been reshaped in response to the many legal challenges it has faced and not a single flight has taken off to date.

The opposition Labour Party’s shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, called the Rwanda policy an “extortionate election gimmick instead of a serious plan”.

Rights groups slam law

Several human rights groups including the UN refugee agency and the Council of Europe criticized the U.K.’s new law.

“The new legislation marks a further step away from the U.K.’s long tradition of providing refuge to those in need, in breach of the Refugee Convention,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.

The Council of Europe’s human rights body chief, Michael O’Flaherty expressed a number of concerns including that the law “significantly excludes the ability of U.K. courts to fully and independently scrutinise the issues brought before them” by those claiming asylum.

Source link

Leave a comment