By Connor Steel
HOME SECRETARY Suella Braverman has vowed to stop migrant crossings in the English Channel after a major incident that occurred in the early hours of Wednesday morning (December 14); tragically causing the deaths of four people alongside multiple injuries as search and rescue operators battled to save many lives.
The incident occurred at approximately 3am this morning when a migrant boat suffered difficulties in ice-cold waters between France and Kent. Emergency services were called, including a helicopter from Lee-on-the-Solent, with a nearby fishing vessel successfully rescuing a figure of thirty-one people in freezing conditions.
In her urgent statement after Prime Minister’s Questions, the Fareham MP stated that she had spoken to her French counterpart Gérald Darmanin earlier this morning; adding that many of the survivors are “fighting for their lives” in hospital. These included women and children with rescue operations still continuing at this time.
This morning’s tragedy joins a similar event in November 2021, which saw a total of twenty-seven deaths in the English Channel. Another four are still missing and a suspect was reportedly arrested in connection with this incident, which was referenced by Ms Braverman in her short address to sombre Commons colleagues.
The Home Secretary invited the House of Commons to express their sorrow and deepest sympathies for all affected, whilst further thanking emergency services for their efforts. She then continued to state: “These are the days we dread. Crossing the channel in unseaworthy vessels is a lethally dangerous endeavour (task).”
“It is for this reason above all that we are working so hard to destroy the business models of the smugglers, evil, organised criminals who treat human beings as cargo. This morning’s tragedy, like the loss of 27 people on a November day last year, is the most sobering reminder possible of why we have to end the crossings.”
In a response to the statement, the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper was critical as she argued that authorities including British and French Governments had failed to stop criminal smuggler / trafficking gangs. She called for more actions on areas like safe routes and further legal proceedings for all people smugglers.
The Labour MP argued: “They need to be caught, they need to be prosecuted, they need to be jailed for this loss of life in the cold sea. We need comprehensive action. Responsibility for the lives that have been lost in the Channel lies with (all) the criminal gangs. We need action before more lives are lost in peril on the seas”.
Meanwhile a union representing Border Forces and Coastguards called on the Home Secretary to resign “in disgrace” after Wednesday’s event; the PCS issuing this statement earlier today. In their response Downing Street called these demands and allegations of the Home Secretary “inappropriate” given the tragic incident.
Braverman’s statement comes just one day after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a five point plan to tackle immigration; which included plans to criminalise any migrants and send them back to their respective countries. More staff would also be employed to reduce a growing backlog of over 150,000 asylum seekers.
Further information can be read via this BBC link with the legislation likely to come back to Parliament in the New Year, with the Prime Minister shutting down critics and concerns over the UK breaking its obligations to allies around Europe. Full transcripts and statements can be viewed on this parliamentary Government link.
PICTURED BY ALAMY (2M1MC66): Home Secretary and Fareham MP Suella Braverman leaves Downing Street following cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning as the PM’s latest immigration plans were discussed.