CALAIS, France (NWN) – Top European immigration officials are holding an emergency meeting in the French port of Calais on Sunday to find ways to better fight migrant smuggling, an overcrowded inflatable boat that killed 27 people I was trying to cross the English Channel in Britain.
UK officials will be noticeably absent from the gathering at Calais city hall, after Wednesday’s sinking sparked a new political crisis between Britain and France. Neighbors accuse each other of not doing enough to stop people from taking the treacherous journey.
France is conducting a national organized crime investigation into the drowning, the deadliest migration accident on record on the Channel. Iraqi Kurds and at least one Somali were among those on board, although most have yet to be publicly identified.
Government ministers from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France will meet in Calais with officials from the EU and EU border agency Frontex and the police agency Europol.
They are focusing on smuggling networks, which charge 3,000 to 7,000 euros for travel across the channel. French Interior Minister Gerald Darminin said a car with a German tag had been confiscated in connection with the investigation.
Aid groups argue for more humane, coordinated asylum policies, rather than just more police. In camps along the French coast, Sudanese and Kurds from Iran and Iraq huddle under freezing rain, waiting for their chance to cross the Channel. They are unimpressed by Wednesday’s deaths or steps to increase beach patrols.
Following the pandemic travel restrictions and Brexit, there has been a jump in the number of migrants trying to cross the Channel in small boats this year. Overall, however, the number of migrants arriving in the UK is smaller than in other European countries.