Channel Deaths Fuel U.K.-France Tensions Over Migrant Boats

LONDON (AP) -
A damaged inflatable dinghy and outboard motors abandoned by migrants are seen on the beach near the Slack dunes, the day after 27 migrants died when their dinghy deflated as they attempted to cross the English Channel, in Wimereux, near Calais, France, Thursday. (REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)

The deaths of at least 27 people in the English Channel is fueling tensions between the U.K. and France over how to stop migrants from crossing the world’s busiest waterway in small boats.

Despite a pledge from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron that they would “do everything possible” to stop people smugglers from endangering lives, politicians on both sides of the channel are already blaming their counterparts for failing to prevent Wednesday’s tragedy.

U.K. officials criticize France for rejecting their offer of British police and border officers to conduct joint patrols along the channel coast with French police. French authorities say Britain is stoking the crisis because it is too easy for migrants to remain in the country and work if they manage to cross the channel.

Amid the finger pointing, British lawmakers on Thursday will debate the soaring number of migrants who are crossing the channel in small boats. Macron is scheduled to discuss the issue with European Union officials.

Meanwhile, migrants are continuing to brave frigid weather in small boats.

“This tragedy was completely predictable, indeed it was predicted and it was completely preventable,” Zoe Gardner, of the Joint Council of Welfare for Immigrants, told the BBC. “This has to be a time for our government to mark a turning point. We need to offer people alternatives to the smuggling boats.”