Rather than developing mechanisms to prevent such accidents, Britain and France are exchanging barbs and shrugging off their responsibilities.

In the biggest single loss of life on record at the crossing of the English Channel, officials confirmed at least 27 migrants and refugees died crossing from France to England on November 24.

The dead included a child and five women at the Channel that is known to be the world's busiest shipping lanes. 

At the Channel crossing, currents are usually strong. Human traffickers typically overload the flimsy dinghies leaving people at the mercy of waves as they try to reach British shores. 

After the tragedy, France and Britain locked into some serious blame trading. 

The focus was on who should bear responsibility, rather than working together to find joint solutions to prevent such loss of lives. 

"There is bad immigration management (in Britain)," French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told RTL radio.

"It's an international problem," Darmanin said. “We tell our Belgian, German and British friends they should help us fight traffickers who work at an international level."

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French President Emmanuel Macron said Britain needed to stop politicising the issue for domestic gain.

Labelled as the worst disaster on record involving migrants and refugees in the narrow seaway separating France and the UK, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on France to do more to stop people from attempting the crossing. 

Despite it being the most perilous crossing, why do people risk their lives to cross the Channel into the UK?

The number of people who crossed the Channel in small boats this year is now three times the total for the whole 2020, when 8,417 people crossed the Dover Strait, the busiest shipping lane in the world. 

At least 886 people made it to the UK on November 22, bringing the total to more than 25,600 for 2021.

There are varied reasons why refugees and migrants attempt to cross into the UK from France.

Most small boats set off from the northern French coast near Calais and Dunkirk. 

Across the Channel in Dunkrik in Northern France, hundreds of people with children have been forced to pack up and leave as police officers with riot shields surrounded their camp. 

In the five years, French authorities have been waging a campaign to prevent migrants and refugees from setting up camps in Calais, where hundreds of people are living in the woods, under bridges as they plan to reach Britain.

According to Matthieu Tardis, an expert in migration policy at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), some migrants and refugees in Calais make the perilous journey as they have relatives or a community of fellow countrymen in the UK. The English language is another factor.

"The bad conditions they experience in France, in Italy, in other EU countries, pushes them to go even further, to think that in the UK it will be better,” he said.

Some decide to leave their war-torn nations and force military service, while others are fleeing persecution for their beliefs or sexuality. 

Last week, a research report by the Refugee Council said that 91 percent of people who travelled by boat across the Channel came from 10 countries where human rights abuses and persecution were common. 

Those countries are Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Vietnam, Kuwait, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen.

“The reality is that people who come to the UK by taking terrifying journeys in small boats across the Channel do so because they are desperately seeking safety having fled persecution, terror and oppression,” Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said in the report.

What happens to people in the English Channel?

Border Force or the RNLI intercepts a large number of boats once they reach the English Channel and are brought to a British port. Some of them land on beaches. 

Under international law, people have the right to seek asylum in any country they land in. An EU law, named Dublin III, allows asylum seekers to be transferred back to the first member state they have entered from.

However, the UK is no longer part of this law as it has now left the EU. The UK does not have a scheme to replace it.

How many have died recently?

Earlier this month, three people died in a week trying to make the journey. In October four people, including two children died drowning off the coast of France.

Almost 300 asylum seekers had died trying to cross the Channel by vehicle, tunnel and over the war since 1999.

A total of 14 people have drowned this year trying to make the crossing, Reuters news agency reported.

“How many tragedies like this must we see before the government fundamentally changes its approach by committing to an ambitious expansion of safe routes for those men, women and children in desperate need of protection?” Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said.

“Every day, people are forced to flee their homes through no fault of their own. Now is the time to end the cruel and ineffective tactic of seeking to punish or push away those who try and find safety in our country.”

Source: TRT World