Could tragic migrant boat have been helped earlier if Albanians were on board? | UK News

Less then 12 hours after Rishi Sunak set out his five-point plan to tackle illegal immigration, around 50 people waded into the water off the Calais coast, clambered into an inflatable dinghy and set off for England.

It was around 11pm on Tuesday night, and light snow was falling in the area as temperatures dropped to -2C.

By the early hours of Wednesday, the boat was off course, waterlogged, children were screaming and one passenger phoned a French refugee charity begging for help.

“We’re in a boat and we have a problem,” he said in the harrowing call.

“Please help.

“We have children and families in a boat.

“Water is coming in.”

Four people, including a teenager, died.

But this number could double, with officials suggesting the number of dead may rise to seven or eight.

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Senior Home Office sources have told Sky News they were surprised the boat had not been spotted, tracked and intercepted earlier.

The rescue operation was launched three to four hours after the dinghy began its journey.

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‘Harrowing’ scenes during Channel rescue

MI5, GCHQ and the Border Force’s Clandestine Channel Threat Command are involved in operations to prevent crossings, using drones, a spy plane and by tracking Albanian mobile phones being used in northern France.

The lack of many Albanians on board may be why the vessel eluded these efforts. Reports suggest the passengers were largely from Afghanistan, Iraq, India and Senegal.

Mr Sunak’s allies believe the tragedy proves that his reforms of the asylum system are urgently needed.

However, within government there are fears that the new trend of crossings continuing through the winter months could be an augur of the intractability of this policy problem.

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Why do migrants cross the Channel?

Conservative MPs seem to agree that failure to tackle illegal immigration could finish Mr Sunak’s hopes of winning the next general election.

Around 70% of 2019 Conservative voters back the policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, according to opinion polls. But 90% do not believe the government will succeed in starting flights to the east African nation.

In the spring, Mr Sunak will set out new laws to support his immigration reforms and cut “spurious” appeals.

And with the next general election expected in late 2024, voters will have time to assess whether or not the PM’s plan has worked.


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