‘Even mass deaths won’t stop them’

The very fact that more asylum seekers crossed the Channel this morning shows that even multiple deaths won’t stop them. That’s the message from a refugee charity after 40 more people in small boats were rescued and arrived in Dover today even though 27 others drowned yesterday.

Kay Marsh of Samphire at Dover seafront. Picture: Sam Lennon Kay Marsh of Samphire at Dover seafront. Picture: Sam Lennon

It has been one of the worst cross-Channel tragedies for asylum seekers since 58 Chinese were found dead in the back of a lorry at the port in 2000. Kay Marsh of Samphire in Dover, repeated the constant call by pro-refugee groups that asylum seekers should be able apply from abroad to move to this country.

She told Kent Online: “That is the only way.

“All the Government’s strategy so far has come from a place of deterrent, trying to put people off coming here. It’s proven that doesn’t work. “For instance the RNLI picked up two boats this morning carrying 40 people and those people would have known what happened yesterday.

A national TV crew interviews Enver Solomon of the Refugee Council.
pPicture: Sam Lennon A national TV crew interviews Enver Solomon of the Refugee Council. Picture: Sam Lennon

“If the deaths of nearly 30 people is not a deterrent then nothing will be.

“We need to come at it from a compassionate point of view. We need to be offering people the chance to claim asylum before ever needing to make a decision to get into boats.” Yesterday’s victims, including five women and a child, drowned after their dinghy capsized off Calais.

Two people were said to have been saved from the water and were taken to hospital for intensive care treatment.

The alarm had been raised at about 2pm but by fishermen at sea who saw two small vessels in trouble, one capsized.

A national TV crew and on the scene reporter at the western end of Dover seafront. Picture: Sam Lennon A national TV crew and on the scene reporter at the western end of Dover seafront.

Picture: Sam Lennon

The death toll is now confirmed at 27 when it was initially thought to be more than 30. The RNLI this morning picked up asylum seekers from two boats and brought them to safety in Dover. Deal-based pro-refugee group Seeking Sanctuary has detailed a series of commemorations in France this evening for the victims.

One is at 6pm in Dunkirk in front of the human rights commemorative plaque in the garden of remembrance. Another at 6.30 p.m. at Richelieu Park in Calais, where associations and residents can join a circle of silence and a third is at 8 pm at the Place de la Republique in Paris.

.Augusta Pearson, Library picture: Paul Amos .Augusta Pearson, Library picture: Paul Amos

At 6.30 p.m., the dioceses of Lille and Arras will call on churches to toll the death knell. The Archbishop of Lille, Monsignor Ulrich, will preside over a time of prayer at the Sailors’ Calvary in Dunkirk at 5pm.

Phil Kerton, from the Seeking Sanctuary, said: “This horrific news fulfills forecasts that we and others have been making for years. Who knows how many more have perished in the Channel without their deaths being observed or their bodies recovered? “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends who are bereaved.

“Seeking safety should never end a life. Trying, at any cost, to deter and present asylum seekers from reaching the UK is fundamentally wrong and adds further risk to the already dangerous journeys that are undertaken by desperate human beings who hope to escape violence, discrimination and pending famine and create new lives that offer hope for a better future.” Today in Dover there was no sign of the tragedy except several camera crews and reporters from the national media interviewing people and broadcasting from the Eastern and Western Docks ends of the seafront.

‘What happened now gave me flashbacks of the 2000 tragedy.’

The eastern end has two memorial tablets, one put up in 2018 for all asylum seekers who have died trying to cross the Channel.

The other is for the 58 who were found dead in the back of a truck in Dover on June 18, 2000. It is believed they died from of asphyxiation, after the lorry’s air vent ended up closed during the sailing from Zeebrugge. The driver, Dutchman Perry Wacker, then 32, was later convicted of manslaughter and people smuggling and give a 14-year jail sentence.

AugustaPearson, of Dover, was the interpreter for Wacker during his trial. She now told Kent Online: “What has happened now has brought back very unpleasant memories for me. It gave me flashbacks of the photographs I saw at the trial.

“These were of the bodies and they were too horrific for even the jury to be allowed to see. “It makes me think of the misery these people go through and the facilitators of this seem to usually get away with it. The asylum seekers who pay the smugglers are not wealthy despite what some people might think.

“They are constantly in debt to them through accumulative interest payments.” On October 23, 2019 the bodies of 39 Vietnamese men, women and children were found in the back of a lorry on the Essex side of the Dartford Crossing. Just last Thursday the driver, Maurice Robinson, 27, of Craigavon, in Northern Ireland, was jailed for 13 years and four months.

He had admitted manslaughter and being part of a people-smuggling operation.

Six other men were also jailed for their involvement in that racket.