Smuggling gangs 'pushing people out to sea' to their deaths, PM says - as French police share photos of flimsy boats

23 April 2024, 12:18

Dangerous people smuggling gangs are "pushing people out to sea" to their deaths, Rishi Sunak said
Dangerous people smuggling gangs are "pushing people out to sea" to their deaths, Rishi Sunak said. Picture: Alamy/Social Media

By Asher McShane

Dangerous people smuggling gangs are "pushing people out to sea" to their deaths, Rishi Sunak said today after five migrants, including a girl aged four, died trying to cross the Channel.

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The Prime Minister said the deaths are "a reminder of why my plan it so important because there's a certain element of compassion about everything that we're doing.

"We want to prevent people making these very dangerous crossings. If you look at what's happening criminal gangs are exploiting vulnerable people, they are packing more and more people into these un Sea worthy dinghies.

"This is what tragically happens when they push people out to sea and that's why for matter of compassion more than anything else.

"People need to know that if they try and come here illegally they won't be able to stay.

"They'll be returned either to their own country or Rwanda and I'm pleased that the bill has passed through Parliament in the face of lots of labour opposition."

Regional police in northern France said that four alleged people smugglers were arrested in the Wimereux area.

Stock image: Migrants cross the English Channel
Stock image: Migrants cross the English Channel. Picture: Getty

Officers confirmed they had confiscated nautical equipment including two boats and shared images on social media.

Police wrote on Twitter: "Last night at Wimereux, the police foiled two deliveries of nautical equipment (2 boats, 2 cans of fuel, 2 engines and life jackets) It was handed over to the police. Our objective is to save lives."

The same force also arrested an individual transporting 14 migrants in a single vehicle.

"He was taken into custody and faces charges" a spokesman said.

Watch Again: Nick Ferrari is joined by Illegal Immigration Minister Michael Tomlinson | 23/04/24

Mr Sunak's comments come as French police launched an investigation after the deaths of five migrants who were trying to cross the Channel to reach the UK.

There were several failed attempts to cross the Channel on Tuesday morning.

At least five people have died and that there were "several lifeless bodies" in the water, including a four-year-old girl.

Around one hundred migrants have been rescued by the French navy, according to the La Voix Du Nord newspaper.

Rishi Sunak has vowed to 'stop the boats'
Rishi Sunak has vowed to 'stop the boats'. Picture: Alamy

More than 6,000 migrants have already crossed the Channel this year, a 25 per cent increase compared with the same period last year.

The Home Secretary, James Cleverly, said: "These tragedies have to stop. I will not accept a status quo which costs so many lives.

"This Government is doing everything we can to end this trade, stop the boats and ultimately break the business model of the evil people smuggling gangs, so they no longer put lives at risk."

It comes just hours after Rishi Sunak's flagship Rwanda bill was passed in the House of Commons.

The bill's passed late on Monday night followed weeks of parliamentary deadlock between the Lords and Commons.

Speaking before the deaths along the Channel were reported, immigration minister Michael Tomlinson said the government is determined to stop the boats to prevent needless deaths in the Channel.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Sunak said the first deportation flights to Rwanda will leave "in 10 to 12 weeks".

"No ifs, not buts, these flights are going to Rwanda," the prime minister said.He indicated that once the programme in up and running the planes there will be a "regular rhythm" of flights heading to Kigali.

Read More: Rishi Sunak vows 'nothing will stand in the way of Rwanda flights' as minister warns 'legal challenges are inevitable'

Read More: Victory for Rishi Sunak as Rwanda Bill to become law ending months of parliamentary deadlock

Mr Sunak said yesterday: "Enough is enough. No more prevarication, no more delay. Parliament will sit there tonight and vote no matter how late it goes. No ifs, no buts. These flights are going to Rwanda.

"Describing the plan as an 'indispensable deterrent so that we finally break the business model of the criminal gangs and save lives.

"Starting from the moment that the Bill passes, we will begin the process of removing those identified for the first flight. We have prepared for this moment."

However, Mr Tomlinson told LBC's Nick Ferrari on Tuesday morning that he thought legal challenges would be unavoidable.

"There are those who determined to ensure that this policy will not work," he said.

"There will be challenges, I think it's inevitable. People are already talking about legal challenges, people are going to put every single stumbling block in our way to try to make this policy not work."

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