‘Justice will not be served until the families have answers, the people responsible are held accountable and our government starts valuing the lives of refugees by providing safe passage.’
November 24 marked the two-year anniversary of 27 people losing their lives when crossing the English Channel. When the dinghy capsized, the refugees froze to death in the icy waters off the coast of Kent. A total of 31 people were on board an inflatable watercraft. Four remain missing.
The incident is believed to be the largest loss of life in the English Channel since the International Organisation for Migration began collecting data in 2014.
Two years on from the tragedy, and the families of the victims have signed an open letter demanding justice. The letter was coordinated by a coalition of refugee charities, including Freedom from Torture, Care4Calais, Refugee Action, Calais Appeal, the Refugee Council, the Scottish Refugee Council, and Safe Passage.
The letter informs how the families of the deceased have still not had an explanation as to why the British and French authorities failed to help those onboard the sinking dinghy as they repeatedly called for help.
It states: “We will never let the lives lost that night, or those of loved ones lost since, be forgotten. We demand justice and change. We long for people seeking safety on British shores to be seen as human beings, deserving of rights, compassion and dignity.”
It continues that tragedies like this occur because of “the ‘othering’ our politicians insist on – of the dehumanising of sons and fathers, mothers and daughters, friends and family members.”
The families of the victims and charities are calling for safe routes for all refugees wanting to come to Britain, and improved family reunion and refugee schemes.
“This is the only way these tragedies will end,” the letter says.
Steve Smith, the chief executive of Care4Calais, said that two years on from the largest loss of life in the Channel in decades, and “no one has taken responsibility for the failure of UK authorities to respond to the desperate calls for help from those on board this tragic boat.”
“Justice will not be served until the families have answers, the people responsible are held accountable and our government starts valuing the lives of refugees by providing safe passage,” he added.
On November 9, a report into the tragedy was published by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, which revealed the full story for the first time. In light of the report, transport Secretary, Mark Harper, announced that an independent, non-statutory inquiry will be held investigate the circumstances of the deaths.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward