PM: We must break migrant gangs who are 'literally getting away with murder'

24 November 2021, 18:15 | Updated: 24 November 2021, 23:50

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson said the mass migrant deaths in the English Channel show that people trafficking gangs "are literally getting away with murder" and must be broken.

The PM spoke after 31 migrants died when their inflatable dinghy sank during the perilous crossing to the UK.

He said he was "shocked, appalled and deeply saddened" about the tragedy.

The French Government said 31 people drowned, including five women and a young girl.

Mr Johnson said: "Now is the time for us all to step up… to do everything we can to break these gangs who are literally getting away with murder."

And he showed no sign of relenting in the war of words with Paris seen in recent weeks, accusing the French government of not always approaching the migrant crisis in a way the UK wants to see.

Read more: 'At least 30' migrants drown in English Channel after inflatable dinghy sinks

"We've had difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that we think the situation deserves.

"I understand the difficulties that all countries face, but what we want now is to do more together - and that's the offer we are making."

A rescue operation is under way by sea and air as British and French authorities try to look for anyone in the water. The craft was thought to be holding about 50 people.

Mr Johnson insisted he "of course" had confidence in Home Secretary Priti Patel, who vowed to tackle the small boat crossings.

But he admitted efforts to stop them had been insufficient so far.

"What this shows is that the gangs who are sending people to sea in these dangerous crafts will literally stop at nothing," he said.

"But what I'm afraid it also shows is that the operation that is being conducted by our friends on the beaches, supported as you know with £54 million from the UK to help patrol the beaches, the technical support we've been giving, they haven't been enough.

"Our offer is to increase our support but also to work together with our partners on the beaches concerned, on the launching grounds for these boats.

"That's something I hope will be acceptable now in view of what has happened.

He said unless gangs are shown they can't make money from people trafficking over the Channel they will keep putting migrants' lives at risk.

Speaking to reporters at Downing Street, Mr Johnson said: "I just want to say that I'm shocked and appalled and deeply saddened by the loss of life at sea in the Channel.

"I think the details are still coming in but more than 20 people have lost their lives.

"My thoughts and sympathies are first of all with the victims and their families. It's an appalling thing that they have suffered.

"But I also want to say that this disaster underscores how dangerous it is to cross the Channel in this way."