English Channel Claims First Fatality Of 2022

One man has reportedly died in what is believed to be 2022’s first fatality in the English Channel. The B.B.C. reported that the migrant boat carrying the man was seen to be struggling off the coast of French town Berck-sur-Mer, south of Le Tourquet. The French rescue services were able to rescue 30 other passengers that had been aboard the boat, although some of those rescued are suffering from hypothermia. According to the prosecutor’s office in nearby Boulogne-sur-Mer, the man who died is believed to have been in his twenties and of Sudanese origin.

This death comes amidst a significant increase in the number of migrant crossings. The B.B.C. reported that more than 28,000 migrants crossed the Channel from France to the U.K. in 2021. One of the deadliest crossings occurred in late November; at least 27 people died. In response to this incident, the U.N. Refugee Agency (U.N.H.C.R.) released a statement from Pascale Moreau, U.N.H.C.R. Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe. “In the absence of safer alternatives, people will continue to resort to such perilous journeys,” Moreau said, “and their desperation and vulnerabilities will continue to be preyed upon and exploited by ruthless smugglers.” Among other measures, Moreau called for “expanding safe and predictable routes to safety for refugees.”

The very real risks associated with making the journey from France to the U.K. across the Channel do not deter migrants and asylum-seekers from doing so. The U.K. Home Office confirmed that 271 people arrived in the U.K. on January 13th, 2022 alone – more migrants and asylum-seekers than arrived throughout the whole of January 2020.  Just one day after the ill-fated crossing which killed the Sudanese man mentioned above, the Independent reported that the British Royal National Lifeboat Institution rescued two more groups of people believed to be migrants in “pitch-black conditions.”

The British government is currently focused on limiting the number of migrants and asylum-seekers that arrive in the U.K. illegally. The government aims to intercept as many people as possible as they make the journey, enabling the authorities to return them before they arrive in the U.K. This does little to deter people from making the journey – rather, it encourages people to make the crossing under increasingly treacherous and dangerous conditions, increasing the likelihood of tragedy. It is time for the U.K. to reconsider its approach to migrants and asylum-seekers and place a more significant focus upon guaranteeing safety of passage. As Director Moreau said, “[s]aving lives should always be the priority.”