A map that listed the number of asylum seekers discovered in the waters off the coast of Dover showed that almost every single one was from Eritrea
The UK and France have escalated their war of words over the Dover drowning tragedy, where 34 asylum seekers died off the Kent coast, with France saying a naval frigate British attempts to intercept all illegal migrants on its shores, and calling for stronger action to address what it said were “global catastrophes”.
The British navy has continued to search for victims of an inflatable boat that sank off the coast of Kent on Thursday, in the latest of a series of tragedies involving migrants trying to reach Britain. But by Friday the death toll from the Sea Storm tragedy had risen to 34, with 75 people rescued.
By contrast, the French navy said it had found only one more body and several badly injured people in the waters off the Kent coast on Friday, after a maritime rescue operation involving three vessels and helicopters. Two more dead bodies were also recovered by French trawlers and a landing ship, which had also found some badly injured victims, after a French air force plane had spotted the bodies Thursday.
Speaking after boarding a French navy vessel about 150 nautical miles from Dover, French president Emmanuel Macron said: “This is our moral responsibility, how we want to live together.”
France repeated its assertion that a Dover-Calais crossing by sea was not a safe option, given the dangers of the perilous crossing and boat people making it with unsuitable equipment and others unaware of the perilous conditions.
France says three patrol vessels were on site to help UK authorities trying to rescue people in the water off the coast of Dover after Friday’s distress call.
Macron said that it would not be “appropriate” to comment on the “French sovereignty” of the Channel.
Play Video 0:28 Divers enter boat to search for further bodies after fatal migrant boat sinking – video
Wreckage of the vessel was found near where two lifeboats and about 80 other people were rescued the day before. On Thursday night, 27 survivors were plucked from the waters and taken to Dover docks. Another 18 were brought on to a lifeboat which was towed to France on Friday.
Thursday’s incident is likely to lead to a review of past recommendations that would increase the number of boats and people enforcement officers.
Officials had been criticised for a poor evacuation of those who were able to make it to shore. Lille’s prefect said it was not “technically or administratively” possible for migrants to come ashore while officials are searching for more bodies, and London hospitals expressed concern about the deteriorating health of the survivors.
The 65 migrants in the water when it capsized had been trying to reach Britain through the Dunkerque immigration centre on the French coast, rather than making the Mediterranean crossing from north Africa to Italy or Greece.
Donald Tusk and Theresa May agreed on Friday in Brussels that it was “hard to avoid” a full-scale joint effort to tackle the migrant crisis. It came just a day after the Council of the European Union published its final list of member states which refused visas for German speakers following a bitter row that threatened to stop the 27 EU states from agreeing on migration issues.
In a statement, the council said it had reached agreement on three new principles: greater EU co-operation, respect for EU values and an unprecedented strengthening of cross-border co-operation.
Top officials said the deal would see new anti-trafficking funds promised to EU countries along the route.
Tusk, the EU’s president, said those who blamed the flow of migrants on European failings were wrong.
“The reason for the deaths off the French coast is the choice of the policy makers, the Schengen laws, not its imperfections,” he said.
Macron also addressed the EU, but chose a different target. “Those who in the past have compared the migration flow with the vast, uncontrollable flow of uncontrolled migration across the Mediterranean, from Africa, now choose in a correct way, one which shows emotion and national responsibility and first and foremost, respect for human dignity,” he said.
Macron said he was sorry that human suffering would only worsen. “But the crisis will persist, it is a global catastrophe,” he said.