33 migrants due crossing the Channel from France to Britain


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Oct 9, 2004

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Boris Johnson calls on France to smash slave gangs who are 'getting away with murder' as at least 33 migrants including five women and a girl drown in deadliest-ever Channel crossing after French police sit and watch boats leave their shore

Boris Johnson has called on France to smash slave gangs who are 'getting away with murder' after at least 33 migrants, including 'five women and a girl', drowned today in the deadliest-ever Channel crossing hours after French police sat and watched boats leave their shore despite a 'crackdown'. Four alleged people smugglers thought to be connected with the disaster were arrested by police north of Dunkirk, near the France-Belgian border, this evening after tragedy struck shortly after 2pm when an 'overloaded' boat carrying around 50 people capsized in rough seas amid rain and cold weather and was found by fishermen, with three coastguard vessels and a helicopter rushed to the scene. The 33 deaths are the biggest single-day loss of life from migrant crossings in the Channel, with the previous grim record believed to be a family of five Kurdish-Iranians who drowned in October last year. Before the accident, a total of 14 people had drowned this year trying to make it to Britain. Mr Johnson chaired an emergency Cobra meeting this afternoon following the disaster amid anger from Tory MPs over soaring numbers of migrant crossings from France - with nearly 27,000 landing on the south coast this year. The Prime Minister said he was 'shocked, appalled and deeply saddened' and that the UK needed to work with 'our French friends' and the rest of Europe to address the crisis. 'I say to our partners across the Channel, now is the time for us all to step up, to work together, to do everything we can to break these gangs who are literally getting away with murder.' Mr Johnson also criticised Mr Marcon's Government, saying there had been 'difficulty persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way we think the situation deserves'.