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 full of rescuers and local elected officials put to sea off the coast of Dunkirk on Thursday to mark the anniversary of the deadliest migrant accident in the Channel ever.
They threw wreaths into the water and paused to remember the 27 people, most of them from Iraq, who died when their dinghy capsized overnight amid shipping between France and Britain.
“It is a tragedy that we expected and there will probably be more,” said the head of the local branch of the SNSM lifeboat service, Alain Ledaguenel.
Elsewhere, a protest march organized by a local charity saw people walk from the center of Dunkirk to the beach behind a banner reading “Your borders, our dead”.
One of the marchers read out the names of the deceased as he faces 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 maritime rescue coordinators sent the money when the boat sank.
In the first SOS calls, the boat appears to have been just inside French waters but drifting towards the British border, but neither side dispatched a rescue boat, according to Le Monde newspaper.
“Everything that has been written is quite shocking,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told France 3 television on Wednesday night.
“From what I understand… we should have intervened because things looked like they were in French waters,” he added.
In Paris on Thursday night, around 100 people demonstrated in the Place de la Republique where white leaves with the names of the dead were placed at the foot of the column in the center of the square.
A letter was read from the window to a man who lost his life, the father of her two children, saying he “didn’t deserve to die like that”.
Elsewhere on Thursday, 65 humanitarian associations from Britain, Belgium and France called on the British government to provide legal pathways for asylum seekers in a joint letter published in Le Monde.
The UK government has programs to help Ukrainian and Afghan refugees, but others are forced to cross the channel to claim asylum.