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Vigil held at Sunny Sands in Folkestone to mark the deaths of 27 people in Channel crossing tragedy


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A vigil has been held to mark the deaths of 27 people drowned in freezing waters in last week's Channel crossing tragedy.

More than 100 people gathered on Sunny Sands in Folkestone yesterday to remember those who lost their lives and call on the government to introduce safe routes for would-be asylum seekers to reach Britain.

People lay flowers on the sand on Folkestone beach. Picture: Andy Aitchison
People lay flowers on the sand on Folkestone beach. Picture: Andy Aitchison

Event organiser Bridget Chapman said: "Wednesday was a terrible day. Those deaths were completely avoidable and I am both heartbroken and angry.

"But in a time of darkness the vigil was a beacon of compassion and hope. Everyone who turned out was behind the message that we need safe routes now.

"The government has lost its moral compass but our community stands for kindness and decency."

It is believed that only two people survived the sinking of the doomed dinghy which was carrying men, women and children on the perilous journey across the Channel from France towards the Kent coast.

The boat - which has been described by officials as "frail" and being "like a pool that you'd blow up in your garden" - left a beach near Dunkirk carrying up to 30 people before it tragically capsized.

Local people gathered on Sunny Sands beach in Folkestone. Picture: Andy Aitchison
Local people gathered on Sunny Sands beach in Folkestone. Picture: Andy Aitchison
A slogan written in the sand calls for safe routes for asylum seekers. Picture: Andy Aitchison
A slogan written in the sand calls for safe routes for asylum seekers. Picture: Andy Aitchison

Increasing numbers of people attempting to make the crossing in small boats has put the issue high up on the political agenda, putting increased focus on the strained diplomatic relationship between London and Paris.

Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elphicke tweeted: "It’s urgent that France works with the UK and EU allies to stop boats getting into the water and more lives being lost.

"Especially as the conditions on the English Channel look set to become even more treacherous in the coming days."

However refugee charities have rounded on the government's stance on asylum seekers, blaming its hard-line position of safe routes for the increasing desperation of refugees willing to risk their lives to reach Britain by crossing the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

A spokesman for the Folkestone and Hythe Labour Party, which supported yesterday's event at Sunny Sands, said: "Our government must respond now to the human tragedy that continues just across the waters in northern France and across Europe.

Local people gathered on Sunny Sands to remember the 27 who drowned. Picture: Andy Aitchison
Local people gathered on Sunny Sands to remember the 27 who drowned. Picture: Andy Aitchison
Flowers and candles laid at the vigil on Sunny Sands beach in Folkestone. Picture: Andy Aitchison
Flowers and candles laid at the vigil on Sunny Sands beach in Folkestone. Picture: Andy Aitchison

"Brutality is not the answer. Humanity is needed instead. We cannot leave any adult, child or young person feeling they have no choice but to undertake these terrifying and dangerous journeys.

"We cannot blame others. We need safe routes now."

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We appreciate it is a very divisive issue but must ensure our comments adhere to house rules.

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