France calls for European aid after 27 migrant deaths at sea

www.startribune.com
5 min read
standard
Helicopters buzzed above the waves and vessels were already scouring the cold waters when French maritime rescue volunteer Charles Devos added his boat to the frantic search for a flimsy migrant craft that foundered in the English Channel, killing at least 27.
CALAIS, France —

What Devos found was gruesome. But not, he later sorrowfully acknowledged, wholly unexpected. With migrants often setting off by the hundreds in flotillas of unseaworthy and overloaded vessels into the busy shipping lane crisscrossed by hulking freighters, and frequently beset by treacherous weather, waves and currents, Devos had long feared that tragedy would ensue.

That came this week, with the deadliest migration accident to date on the dangerous stretch of sea that separates France and Britain.

"We picked up six floating bodies. We passed by an inflatable craft that was deflated. The little bit of air remaining kept it afloat," Devos told reporters.

"I'd been somewhat expecting it because I'd say, 'It's going to end with a drama,'" he said.

France and Britain appealed Thursday for European assistance, promised stepped-up efforts to combat people-smuggling networks and also traded blame and barbs in the wake of Wednesday's deadly sinking that again shone a light on the scale and complexity of Europe's migration problems.

French President Emmanuel Macron appealed to neighboring European countries to do more to stop illegal migration into France, saying that when migrants reach French shores with hopes of heading on to Britain "it is already too late."

Macron said France is deploying army drones as part of stepped-up efforts to patrol its northern coastline and help rescue migrants at sea. But he also said that a greater collective effort is needed, referring to France as a "transit country" for Britain-bound migrants.

"We need to strengthen cooperation with Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, but also the British and the (European) Commission," he said on a visit to Croatia. "We need stronger European cooperation."

Migration is an explosive issue in Europe, where leaders often accuse one another of not doing enough to either prevent migrants from entering their countries or from continuing on to other nations.

Ministers from France,…
OLEG CETINIC, JOHN LEICESTER, Associated Press
Read full article