Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called on France to agree to joint police patrols after a migrant boat capsized and dozens died on Wednesday.

27 people have died following the capsize in the French Channel, the French regional maritime authority has stated.

French officials had previously said there 31 people were killed but the death toll was revised down, without providing an immediate explanation for why this was the case.

Boris Johnson spoke to President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday evening (November 24) following the tragic incident.

 

Downing Street said that they had agreed to “keep all options on the table” to help break up the human trafficking gangs responsible for putting desperate people at risk in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

Tom Pursglove, the Immigration compliance minister, has confirmed that Mr Johnson renewed the previous offer to send UK police and Border Force officers for joint patrolling efforts in France.

The French have previously resisted the offer due to concerns about what these joint patrols would mean for their national sovereignty.

Mr Pursglove said, however, the last incident showed the two countries needed to deepen their cooperation in dealing with the issue.

“The Prime Minister and President Macron have had exactly that discussion this evening. That is something that I am very keen to see happen,” he told BBC2’s Newsnight.

“It is the case that in the past we have offered to host and to help with joint patrols. I think that could be invaluable in helping to address this issue. I really do hope that the French will reconsider that offer.”

On both sides of the Channel, the events on Wednesday have been widely described as a “tragedy”.

French and British authorities launched a joint search and rescue operation after a fishing boat spotted people in the sea off the French coast.

Swanage and Wareham Voice: Migrant boat capsizes in the English channel. Credit: PA GraphicsMigrant boat capsizes in the English channel. Credit: PA Graphics

The search was later called off late on Wednesday evening.

Five women and a girl were amongst the dead, the French interior minister Gerald Darmanin has confirmed.

Two survivors were picked up and were being treated in a French hospital.

It was later reported that one of the dead women was pregnant.

Mr Darmanin said the boat which sank had been very flimsy, comparing it to “a pool you blow up in your garden”.

The French authorities have arrested four suspected people traffickers in connection with the incident.

The regional prosecutor has opened an investigation into aggravated manslaughter.

Mr Johnson said, following a meeting of the Cobra emergencies committee, that it was clear that the current French operations to stop the migrant boats leaving “haven’t been enough” despite £54 million of UK support.

He went on to say that the traffickers were “literally getting away with murder” and that he hoped the French would now find the renewed offer of joint patrols “acceptable”.

“We’ve had difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that we think the situation deserves,” he said.

“I understand the difficulties that all countries face, but what we want now is to do more together – and that’s the offer we are making.”

Will the French agree to the joint patrols?

 

The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, has insisted that it British were the ones to blame the current crisis and has called on the Prime Minister to “face up to his responsibilities”.

“The British Government is to blame. I believe that Boris Johnson has, for the past year and a half, cynically chosen to blame France,” she said, according to French media reports.

The Government will seek to “accelerate” measures in the Nationality and Borders Bill, according to Boris Johnson.

The bill should allow the authorities to “distinguish between people who come here legally and people who come here illegally”.

But Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council is calling for this tragic event to make the Government rethink its strategy.

“Surely a tragedy of this magnitude is the wake up call our Government needs to change its approach and finally commit to an expansion of safe routes for those men, women and children in desperate need of protection,” he said.