LONDON: The UK has been criticized by a French politician after the death of a young Sudanese migrant who drowned while trying to cross the English Channel from France in an inflatable boat.
The 16-year-old’s body was discovered on Wednesday on a beach in northern France, at Sangatte in the Pas-de-Calais region. A friend who survived the ordeal said their small vessel ran into trouble in the middle of the waterway.
French National Assembly member Pierre-Henri Dumont blamed the British government over the boy’s death, saying its refusal to allow claims for asylum to be made outside the UK led to the tragedy.
He tweeted: “What we all feared happened that night. How many more tragedies does it need for the British to find an ounce of humanity?”
“The inability to claim asylum in Britain without being physically present in the country causes these tragedies,” he added.
“This unbearable tragedy mobilizes us even more... against smugglers who take advantage of the distress of human beings,” Marlene Schiappa, France’s minister delegate for citizenship issues, said on Twitter.
UK Secretary of State Priti Patel tweeted: “This is an upsetting and tragic loss of a young life.
“This horrendous incident serves as a brutal reminder of the abhorrent criminal gangs and people smugglers who exploit vulnerable people. Working together we are determined to stop them.”
Attempted migrant crossings from France to Britain have massively increased in 2020, with 50 rescued on Wednesday, including six children, French authorities said.
Since Jan. 1, authorities in the northern regions of France have logged 350 attempts or crossings involving more than 4,000 migrants, compared with just 203 attempts and 2,294 migrants for the whole of 2019.
French maritime officials have managed to rescue 1,014 migrants at sea attempting to cross the English Channel in boats or even swimming, according to an AFP count. Last Friday, French officials saved 38 migrants from the Channel, which is the busiest sea lane in the world.
The issue has been a source of tension, with Britain accusing France of not doing enough to stop the crossings. French authorities insist they are doing all they can.
Judicial sources said this was the first migrant found dead on a northern French beach this year. Last year, four bodies were recovered in the Channel and on land after failed crossings.