Last Friday, the humanitarian association Utopia 56 lodged a complaint for manslaughter accusing the French maritime prefect of the Channel and the North Sea, the Gris-Nex Regional Operational Center for Surveillance and Rescue and the British Coast Guard not to do enough to stop the deaths of 27 migrants. Lawyers for the group said the authorities involved “passed the buck” and said their inaction ultimately led to the capsizing of a migrant boat which killed several people. The only two survivors of the tragedy revealed they contacted emergency services in the UK and France who simply told them to contact the other country, the charity said in a statement. : “Transparency and truth are due to the victims and their families”.
Utopia 56 is more than a hundred volunteers who work in migrant camps across France and help provide meals, clothing and other goods to those who live there.
The association accused the heads of the British coast guard and the French maritime forces of “manslaughter” and “failure to assist people in need”.
A boat capsized in the English Channel on November 24 after weeks of escalating crossings and political feuds between France and the UK.
Among the 27 people who died, there were at least 17 men, seven women and three children who were first found by a passing fishing boat.
Emmanuel Daoud, Utopia 56’s lawyer, explains: “The migrants and refugees were trying to join the British and French aid as the boat sank.
“Both serves passed the buck, they didn’t help those in danger.”
The UK Coast Guard and Coast Guard agency declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying it was not appropriate.
But it was revealed on November 24, when the deaths occurred, that the British Coast Guard received 90 Channel alerts which were “responded to, assessed and dealt with, including the deployment of search and rescue resources on optionally”.
Emergency calls to 999 were also included in these alerts.
The Underground Canal Threat Commander Daniel O’Mahoney was asked about the emergency call and said: “I can’t tell you for sure whether we really got a call from this boat or not… British authorities, I can tell you that we have definitely answered this call.
French maritime authorities said their investigation was “still ongoing”.
So far in December, 1,327 migrants have been detained by border forces compared to 211 in the same period last year.
The UK and France are at loggerheads over migrant crossings in the Channel, with the UK government accusing France of not doing enough to prevent boats from entering the country illegally.
In response, French politicians said the problem was linked to human traffickers. En Marche politician Bruno Bonnell has revealed that France has already arrested more than 1,500 smugglers this year.
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French Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin appeared to go on the offensive against the British government and said he was not doing enough to tackle trafficking.
He said: “It is an international problem. We say to our Belgian, German and British friends that they should help us fight the traffickers who work internationally.
Mr Johnson responded and said France had “blood on its hands” for engaging in politics with the Channel.
Mr Bonnell told Sky News the UK should also look for ways to make it less attractive to migrants and said many were drawn to the country’s economic benefits.
Tensions intensified in the days following the capsizing of the boat after Home Secretary Priti Patel was not invited to participate in major migration talks with European partners after Boris Johnson issued a letter outlining the UK’s demands for policing the Channel.
Among them were the use of manned and unmanned surveillance, British forces helping to patrol the beaches of northern France and the sharing of more intelligence.
However, French President Emmanuel Macron was furious with the move and didn’t think it was the right way to conduct negotiations.
Former Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told French television the letter was a “deliberate provocation” by Mr Johnson to pressure France to comply with UK demands.
Mr Bonnell told Radio 4 he could support British forces helping on the northern beaches as long as it wasn’t done to make France look bad.