Boris Johnson called on France to agree to joint police patrols along the Channel coast after a migrant boat capsized causing the loss of dozens of lives.
The French regional maritime authority said 27 people had died. French authorities had previously said there were 31 deaths, but the death toll was revised downwards, with no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.
The Prime Minister met with President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday evening the day after the worst incident of its kind in the Channel since the start of the current migration crisis.
Downing Street said they had agreed to “keep all options on the table” in their efforts to break down human trafficking gangs responsible for endangering desperate people on one of the busiest sea lanes of the world.
Immigration Compliance Minister Tom Pursglove confirmed that Mr Johnson had renewed a previous offer to send officers from the UK police and border forces to mount joint patrols with the French.
The aim is to prevent migrant boats from attempting the perilous crossing, but the French have already resisted amid concerns over the implications for their national sovereignty.
Pursglove, however, said the latest incident showed the two countries need to deepen their cooperation to deal with the issue.
“The Prime Minister and President Macron had exactly this discussion tonight. This is something that I can’t wait to see happen, ”he told BBC2’s Newsnight.
“In the past, we have offered to host and assist in joint patrols. I think it could be invaluable in helping to resolve this issue. I really hope the French will reconsider this offer.
There was shock and dismay on both sides of the Channel at what has been widely described as a “tragedy”.
A joint search and rescue operation by French and British authorities launched after a fishing boat spotted people off France was finally canceled on Wednesday evening.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the dead included five women and a girl while two survivors were recovered and being treated in a French hospital. One of the women who died was later reportedly pregnant.
Mr Darmanin said the sinking boat was very fragile, comparing it to “a pool that you blow up in your backyard”.
French authorities arrested four suspected human traffickers in connection with the incident while the regional prosecutor opened an investigation for aggravated manslaughter.
Following a Cobra emergency committee meeting, Mr Johnson said it was clear that French operations to prevent migrant boats from leaving ‘had not been enough’ despite £ 54million British support sterling.
He said the human traffickers “literally got away with murder” and that he hoped the French would now find the renewed offer of joint patrols “acceptable”.
“We have had difficulty persuading some of our partners, especially 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 this is the offer we are making.”
But the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, said it was the British who were to blame and called on Mr Johnson to “take responsibility”.
“The British government is to blame. I believe that Boris Johnson has, for a year and a half, cynically chosen to blame France, ”she said, according to French media.
Mr Johnson, meanwhile, said the government would seek to ‘speed up’ measures in the Nationality and Borders Bill to allow authorities to ‘distinguish between people who come here legally and people who come here illegally ”.
But Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the incident should prompt the government to rethink its approach.
“A tragedy of this magnitude is certainly the wake-up call our government needs to change its approach and finally commit to expanding safe roads for the men, women and children who desperately need protection,” he said. he declares.
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