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 admitted should have been prevented.
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 where 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 window of a man who lost his life, the father of her two children, which said that he “did not deserve to die like that.”
Elsewhere on Thursday, 65 humanitarian associations from Britain, Belgium and France 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 others are forced to cross the channel to make a claim for asylum.