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How the world's media reacted to deaths of dozens of asylum seekers after worst-ever Channel crossing tragedy


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When an inflatable dinghy capsized off Calais leading to the deaths of dozens of people – including seven women and three children – it sparked "fresh fury" across the globe.

Media outlets around the world reported both angry and sombre moods as news of the Channel crossings tragedy unfolded.

The front page of today's Le Parisien reads "Tragedy off the coast of Calais"
The front page of today's Le Parisien reads "Tragedy off the coast of Calais"

The bodies of asylum seekers, including five women and a young girl, were brought ashore as a search and rescue operation continues with British and French vessels being assisted by three helicopters.

Two people are said to have been saved from the water, and remain in intensive care.

It comes as more people making the perilous journey across the Channel have been brought ashore in the UK following the deadliest day of the current migrant crisis.

Late last night, around 50 people in Calais held a vigil for the asylum seekers who had died.

French police are reported to have arrested five people said to be involved in the smuggling of those who had died.

The front page of French northern daily, La Voix Du Nord reads "The drama we dreaded"
The front page of French northern daily, La Voix Du Nord reads "The drama we dreaded"

In France, media outlets reflected the defiant and angry tone of the nation as details of the tragedy unfolded.

Yesterday the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, declared that "France will not let the Channel become a cemetery" and agreed to step up joint efforts with UK prime minister Boris Johnson to prevent crossings.

But the image that dominated were reports of hearses entering one after the other in the port area of ​​Calais where the emergency services unloaded the bodies of the victims.

"How many deaths will you need?", read one sign brandished by protesters in the port area of Calais.

Olivier Maillard, a 49-year-old activist from city, told French daily Le Monde: "Empathy is running out in this country".

France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who is responsible for the nation's security matters and visited the scene, expressed his “strong emotion” over the sinking, and angrily criticised the smugglers exploiting desperate people.

“The criminal nature of the smugglers who organise these crossings cannot be overstated,” he said.

According to French media reports, Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, made a series of statements explicitly blaming the UK for the failure.

Another local French politician claimed live on French TV station BFM TV that human trafficking bosses were living comfortable lives in “beautiful villas” in the UK.

Meanwhile, Germany's international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle labelled the incident the English Channel's "deadliest drowning accident".

It reported on the dual efforts of both France and Britain to curtail the crossings, including British Prime Minister's message to work with "French friends" and "European partners" to "break these gangs who are literally getting away with murder".

But Der Spiegel, the nation's largest news website, based in Hamburg, pointed out Anglo-French relations were already "very tense" because of the dispute over fishing rights in the English Channel.

Asylum seekers are brought to shore Picture: UKNIP
Asylum seekers are brought to shore Picture: UKNIP

It reported how Macron reacted "particularly sharply" to Johnson's criticism and reprimanded the prime minister on the phone, reportedly saying that he expected the British "to refrain from exploiting a dramatic situation for political purposes."

Irish republic broadcaster RTÉ also featured calls for joint UK-French Channel patrols following the deaths.

It said a British government spokesperson had agreed to "keep all options on the table" in their efforts to break up the human trafficking gangs responsible for putting desperate people at risk in one of the world's busiest sea lanes.

The drownings came only a few days after French and British authorities reached an agreement to do more to stem the number of people taking to the sea.

Al Jazeera, an English language news channel based in the Middle East, reported how rights groups and refugee experts say government policies restricting asylum and tighter surveillance was pushing people to take ever more risks.

“To accuse only the smugglers is to hide the responsibility of the French and British authorities,” said l’Auberge des Migrants, an advocacy group that supports refugees and displaced people.

The Irish Times features the tragedy on its front page
The Irish Times features the tragedy on its front page

In the US, The New York Times described it as "one of the worst death tolls" in recent years.

It reported how local maritime authorities quickly sent out rescue ships and helicopters after a fishing vessel alerted them that several people were lost off the coast of Calais.

But added it was also a stark reminder that five years after authorities dismantled a sprawling migrant camp in Calais, both countries are still struggling to handle the flow of migrants in the area.

One of Australia's major news sites, news.com.au said the horror had sparked "fresh fury" at a failure to end the misery.

As the disaster unfolded it drew on responses from government ministers in both the UK and France.

It also carried quotes from Dover MP Natalie Elphicke who described the news as an "absolute tragedy" and a "wake up call".

Credit: PA Graphics
Credit: PA Graphics

“We need to stop further loss of life this winter,” she said.

“Today’s tragic events are a wake-up call. It’s time to take swift and effective action to end this crisis once and for all.”

The Channel is the busiest fishing lane in the world and despite repeat vows from the UK and French governments to stop people risking their lives to cross numbers have surged and now stand at more than 25,700 in 2021, triple 2020's total.

Asylum seekers have died in the past trying to reach the UK and today's death toll surpasses the tragic death of a family, including two children and a baby, last October.

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