Tributes for migrants, one year after ‘avoidable’ Channel tragedy

Tributes and demonstrations took place in France on Thursday for the 27 migrants who died exactly a year ago in a Channel boat disaster that France's interior minister has admitted should have been prevented.

Tributes for migrants, one year after 'avoidable' Channel tragedy
Emergency services at Calais on the night, last year, 27 migrants died when their boat sank in the Channel. (Photo by FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP)

Several boats packed with rescuers and local elected figures took to sea off the coast of Dunkirk on Thursday to mark the anniversary of the most deadly migrant accident in the Channel on record.

They tossed wreaths into the water and paused to remember the 27 people, mostly from Iraq, who perished when their inflatable boat floundered overnight in the middle of the shipping channel between France and Britain.

“It’s a tragedy that we were expecting and there will probably be others,” said the head of the local branch of the SNSM lifeboat service, Alain Ledaguenel.

Elsewhere, a protest march organised by a local charity saw people walk from the centre of Dunkirk to the beach behind a banner reading “Your borders, our dead”.

One of the marchers read out the names of the deceased while facing the water.

‘Should have intervened’

Documents from a French investigation into the accident that have been reported in the media suggest that French and British sea rescue coordinators passed the buck as the boat sank.

In the first SOS calls, the boat appears to have been just inside French waters but drifting towards the British boundary, but neither side sent out a
rescue boat, according to Le Monde newspaper.

“Everything that has been written is quite shocking,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told the France 3 TV channel on Wednesday evening. “From what I understand… we should have intervened because by the looks of things they were in French waters,” he added.

In Paris on Thursday evening, around 100 people demonstrated at the Place de la Republique. White leaves bearing the names of the dead were placed at the foot of the column in the centre of the square.

A letter was read out from the widow of a man who lost his life, the father of her two children, which said that he “did not deserve to die like that”.

Meanwhile, 65 humanitarian associations from Britain, Belgium and France have called on the British government to provide legal routes for asylum seekers in a joint letter published in Le Monde.

The British government has programmes to help Ukrainians and Afghan refugees, but many others are forced to cross the Channel to make a claim for

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‘A good thing’ for footballers to express values, says France’s PM

France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne - speaking in Berlin - said that footballers should be allowed to express their values, amid controversy over FIFA's stance against the 'OneLove' armband on the pitch.

'A good thing' for footballers to express values, says France's PM

“There are rules for what happens on the field but I think it’s a good thing for players to be able to express themselves on the values that we obviously completely share, while respecting the rules of the tournament,” said Borne at a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

Germany’s players made headlines before Wednesday’s shock loss to Japan when the team lined up for their pre-match photo with their hands covering their mouths after FIFA’s threat to sanction players wearing the rainbow-themed armband.

Seven European nations, including Germany, had previously planned for their captains to wear the armband, but backed down over FIFA’s warning.

Following Germany’s action, Wales and the Netherlands have since come out to say they would not mirror the protest.

Borne’s visit to Germany was her first since she was named to her post in May.

Following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the two leaders signed an agreement for “mutual support” on “guaranteeing their energy supplies”.

Concrete measures outlined in the deal include France sending Germany gas supplies as Berlin seeks to make up for gaping holes in deliveries from Russia.

Germany meanwhile would help France “secure its electricity supplies over winter”, according to the document.

France had since 1981 been a net exporter of electricity to its neighbours because of its nuclear plants. But maintenance issues dogging the plants have left France at risk of power cuts in case of an extremely cold winter.

The two leaders also affirmed their countries’ commitment to backing Ukraine “to the end of” its conflict with invaders Russia.