Published: 13:41, 28 October 2020
| Updated: 16:45, 28 October 2020
Refugee groups have reacted to yesterday's tragedy in the Channel by calling on the government to heed the wake up call and provide safer ways for people to claim asylum without risking their lives.
Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) spokesman Bridget Chapman said she is devastated to hear that two adults and two children had perished in the sea off Dunkirk.
She also said it was "horrible" her warnings of deaths in the channel have been proven right and this time involving children.
But she blasted the government's focus on targeting traffickers as "disingenuous" claiming politicians could shut down their illegal trade overnight.
To do that they would need to provide safer ways for asylum claims to be made, instead of "driving people into the arms of people smugglers" so they can reach the UK to make their claims.
Her assessment was echoed by David Wilson of Care4Calais, who added: "The problem with the politicians' approach is they've been using the same failed approach for a decade now.
"Increased policing of refugees, increased militarising of the channel crossing, increased persecution doesn't solve the problem because until there is a safe legal way for refugees to have their asylum claim heard those refugees will still be desperate enough to get in boats and cross the channel - it's that safe legal process that needs to be solved that's what we can do to unlock this issue."
Working for Care4Calais on the ground in North France means "we know the refugees, " he said.
"We know their stories. We know about their dreams and ambitions so whenever anything like this happens it hits us really really hard and it's really upsetting.
"The refugees that are in Calais all come from the most dangerous countries in the world; places like Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran.
"They're running away from wars and persecution and torture and incredibly dangerous situations.
"They have faced awful hardship in order to get as far as north France.
"Some of them have crossed the Mediterranean and the channel won't be their first incredibly dangerous boat trip.
"The reason they want to get to the UK is they have links with this country. Maybe that's family, maybe they speak the language, perhaps its cultural links, but they see the UK as their last hope."
People seeking asylum have to be physically in the UK before their claims can be heard, "and that's what makes them feel forced to getting into the boats," he said.
Yesterday's tragedy happened after a boat capsized off Dunkirk.
Two children aged five and eight died along with a man and woman, all believed to be from Iran. A number of people were taken to hospitals in Dunkirk and Calais after the French-led rescue operation which included military resources and civilian helpers.
Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elphicke was quick to pass on her respects.
She tweeted: "It is terrible that tragedy has struck in the Channel again. People traffickers have no regard for life, no matter how old or young. These perilous crossings must be stopped, once and for all, before there is more loss of life in these stormy winter seas."
Later Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his thoughts were with the victims' loved ones.
He said: "We have offered the French authorities every support as they investigate this terrible incident and we'll do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs who prey n vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys".
Both KRAN and Care4Calais have called for this latest tragedy to be a wake-up call for the government.
Ms Chapman added: "It is only just over five years since Aylan Kurdi died on a beach.
"I hoped that was a turning point to say this wouldn't happen again and now here we are with two young children losing their lives in the channel just off the coast of the UK and I don't really understand how we can be in this position."
The three year-old from Syria was travelling in a small vessel when he fell in the water and drowned. His lifeless body was washed up on a beach in Turkey and photograpbed in a picture that touched the world.
Phil Kerton, co-director of Seeking Sanctuary said:
"Desperate people have lost their lives in another tragic and distressing accident, this time off the French coast near Dunkirk.
"Conditions at sea were such that the crossing in a small boat was extremely hazardous from the start. "Our thoughts at Seeking Sanctuary are with their families who are yet to learn of their loss and with with those of their companions who were lucky enough to be rescued, but who must now live with the memories of this tragedy.
"Like everyone else, each of the dead had hopes for leading a future life in peace and dignity, all seeking to realise their innate potential.'
"We continue to urge that innovative solutions are found for the welfare of the world's exiles. Especially means for their safe access to places where they may request asylum without falling into the hands of unscrupulous traffickers who do not hesitate to put lives at risk.
"We want to see fresh solutions that do not involve more security measures such as patrols, walls and fences, but which instead see each individual as a fellow human being in need of advice and help and with a genuine contribution to make to our community."
Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Leader of Dover District Council, said: “We’re all shocked at this tragic news. Our thoughts are with the families, and all those in France involved in the search and rescue operation. I also want to acknowledge the effect this terrible event may also have on those who work locally to help save lives at sea, including HM Coastguard, RNLI volunteers, and the Border Force.”