The Journal Gazette
Monday, November 29, 2021 1:00 am

After deaths, EU to monitor Channel

Associated Press

CALAIS, France – The EU's border agency will dispatch a plane to monitor the shores of the English Channel for migrant activity after 27 people died when their overcrowded, inflatable boat sank last week en route to Britain, the deadliest migration accident on record on the treacherous crossing.

European migration officials agreed on the new deployment at an emergency meeting Sunday in the French port of Calais. They also pledged to work together more closely against migrant smuggling networks and the trade in inflatable boats that are being used in increasingly frequent journeys by people fleeing conflict or poverty in Afghanistan, Sudan or beyond.

U.K. officials were notably absent from the gathering at the Calais City Hall, after Wednesday's sinking prompted a new political crisis between Britain and France. The neighbors accuse each other of not doing enough to deter people from crossing the Channel, and countries across the European Union have long argued over how to manage migration.

“We have to prevent lives being lost. We have to prevent chaos coming to our external borders,” EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters after the meeting.

She called for more sharing of intelligence and said governments need to “go after the money.”

Starting on Wednesday, a plane operated by EU border agency Frontex will help France, Belgium and the Netherlands monitor their shores to better identify smuggling networks, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

German, Dutch and Belgian ministers also took part in the meeting, and participants stressed the need to cooperate with the U.K.

Such cooperation has been complicated by Great Britain's departure from the EU this year.

“This meeting was not anti-English. It was pro-European,” Darmanin said. “We want to work with our British friends and allies.”

British Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was “unfortunate” that she was uninvited to the meeting, and she reiterated Britain's proposal for returning migrants to France.

French officials firmly rejected the idea when it was initially proposed. 

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