Thirty-one people, including at least three children, were killed when a group of mainly Ethiopian immigrants attempting to flee the European Union were hit by a lorry at the border with France on Friday, Reuters reported.
Seven people were also seriously injured. The victims were fleeing war-torn Eritrea when they started to swim across the Channel. Three of them were killed and the rest were rescued by the coastguard.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini condemned what he called a “humanitarian tragedy”, accusing French authorities of “banning” boats carrying migrants.
The “flood of Africa” has to be slowed down and stopped. We are simply waiting for the French ‘boat’ of mercy,” Salvini wrote on Twitter.
French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said, “The images of this inhumane and cruel drama coming from Calais are unbearable.” Borne promised a top priority would be to bring people to safety, but warned that their bodies “may remain in the sea for a long time” and that she hoped more people would be turned back on their way to England.
There has been much criticism of Borne’s handling of the situation, with some MPs even calling for her resignation. A doctor who worked at an aid camp near Calais, Bernard Zeile, said that the tragedy underscores the lack of solidarity between Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, and poorer northern European countries. “The richest countries cannot accept the poorest immigrants, and yet the poorest countries cannot accept the rich countries,” he told the Guardian.
The claim has been widely disputed. Greece has been overwhelmed by illegal migration, but Greece has proved itself to be one of the most effective border police, and the EU’s interior ministers continue to try to find common ground over immigration. Germany has run into problems over its “welcome culture” for refugees, but its official position is that it will continue to enforce its border.
Given the statistics available, Friday’s incident is the third large-scale migrant “tragedy” to occur in the past few months. The previous two tragedies were caused by separate actions by another set of migrants on a raft which sank and a boat that capsized.
Italy has been a major source of migrants crossing to the EU.
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