At least 27 are expected dead after a boat carrying migrants capsized in the English Channel between France and Britain. The people drowned in freezing waters in an attempt to reach the U.K., making it one of the worst death tolls for refugees and migrants trying to cross the channel.
Seventeen men, seven women, including a pregnant woman, and three young people, make up the death toll. Two people were rescued and immediately sent to the hospital for intense hypothermia.
It comes only days after authorities for the two sides came to an agreement to do more to help stem the number of people taking to boats in order to secure passage.
Attempts to cross the cold and difficult channel have increased over the past few years, especially as governments impose stricter borders and also crack down on migrants coming across the channel by car or by truck.
Since the start of 2021, 47,000 attempts have been made to cross the channel, with 7,800 people being rescued from the waters. The death toll was at seven so far this year before this week.
The horrific accident has intensified rhetoric from both British and French leaders, with both sides blaming the other. French President Emmanuel Macron said: “France won’t let the Channel become a graveyard.” He called for the immediate tightening of borders and for stricter responses to immigrant smugglers.
It still is unclear where the people were fleeing from. The Calais Port authority believed the majority were Iraqi citizens, including Iraqi Kurds who appeared to be among the victims.
People in the UK are calling for the government to act with empathy rather than coldness. Activists and advocates say that the UK is acting completely without empathy for the migrants and that the deaths need to be treated as extreme tragedies, not merely labeled “migrant deaths.”