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Live Reporting

Edited by Tom Spender

All times stated are UK

  1. Today's key developments

    A woman holds a sign that translates as "Briançon, Paris, Calais, the racism of the state kills" at a memorial
    Image caption: Vigils have taken place in memory of the 27 people who died

    We're closing our live page coverage. Here's a summary of the latest developments after 27 people headed for the UK drowned when their boat sank in the Channel yesterday:

    • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has written a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron in which he calls for a deal to return migrants who reach England
    • He set out five steps both countries should take as soon as possible, including joint patrols and immediate work on a bilateral returns agreement
    • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said it was "deeply shocked and saddened" by the tragedy and described it as avoidable. It said all states must "commit to placing human life, rights and dignity at the centre and forefront of discussions"
    • A French prosecutor said seven women and three children were among the 27 dead - while two people were rescued
    • Little else is known about who died, including their nationalities or what made the boat sink
  2. Home Office planning 'fair but firm' asylum system

    A boat crosses the Channel

    The Home Office has responded to calls for safe and legal routes for claiming asylum in the UK by insisting it is on track to "fix the broken asylum system".

    Various charities, religious leaders and the United Nations have all called for safe and legal routes to be established following Wednesday's tragedy.

    The statement pointed to the government's New Plan for Immigration - currently passing through the Commons - which would make it harder for anyone arriving by boat to claim asylum successfully.

    But that is likely to face legal challenge - and refugee groups have condemned the idea as cruel.

    The Home Office said the UK had a "long history of supporting refugees in need of protection".

    Since 2015 more than 25,000 refugees had been resettled through safe and legal routes direct from regions of conflict and instability, which the Home Office said was "more than any other European country".

    The Home Office also pointed to its commitment to welcoming 5,000 people in the first year of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme – and up to 20,000 in coming years.

    “Our New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken asylum system so that it is fair but firm, helping those in genuine need through safe and legal routes while stopping those who abuse the system.”

  3. Former asylum-seeker on 'hellish' journey to UK

    Gulwali Passarlay was granted asylum in the UK after a "hellish" journey from Afghanistan at the age of 13.

    He says he found the loss of lives on Wednesday "heartbreaking" because he too had been in a boat that almost capsized, when he crossed the Aegean Sea.

    Here's what he told us about his experience.

    Video content

    Video caption: Channel deaths: Former asylum-seeker on 'hellish' journey to UK
  4. Could migrants be pushed back?

    As we reported earlier, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said she had authorised Border Force officials to turn back boats carrying migrants to the UK in limited circumstances.

    "Push back at sea" is a tactic that is used in Australia. However, France has not co-operated with the UK's approach.

    As soon as the boats leave French waters - which the UK authorities cannot enter without France's consent - and enter the UK's, they are subject to the protection of UK law, says Prof Andrew Serdy, a maritime law expert.

    "If France doesn't want to take them back once they have left, it cannot be forced to do so and a stand-off ensues."

    A boat can also only be pushed back if it's clear that doing so won't endanger lives, which could be difficult to prove with a small dinghy.

  5. UK PM's full letter to French president

    Boris Johnson has tweeted a copy of his letter to French President Emmanuel Macron in which he calls for a deal to return migrants who reach England.

    Johnson says he will bring in measures to reform the asylum system to "deter illegal entry into the UK, break the business model of people smuggling networks and remove more easily those with no right to be here".

    He says he is confident the two great countries can rise to the challenge together.

    View more on twitter
  6. What currently happens to people crossing the Channel?

    migrants in the UK

    As we've been reporting, UK PM Boris Johnson is calling for a deal to return to France all migrants and asylum seekers who cross or try to cross the Channel - so what are the current rules?

    As things stand now, if people are found in UK national waters, it is likely they will be brought to a British port. Once in the UK, they are usually taken to short-term holding centres.

    If they are in international waters, the UK will work with French authorities to decide where to take them. Each country has search-and-rescue zones covering the whole of the Channel.

    Under international law, people have the right to seek asylum in any country they arrive in. They don't have to seek asylum in the first safe country reached.

    However, an EU law called Dublin III, allows asylum seekers to be sent back to the first member state they were proven to have entered.

    But the UK is no longer a member of the European Union and therefore is no longer part of this agreement. The UK has not agreed a scheme to replace it, making the transfer of migrants more difficult.

  7. BreakingMore details on Johnson's call for a deal with France

    boris johnson, 24/11

    More from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson who says he has written to France's President Macron setting out five steps both countries should take as soon as possible. They are:

    • Joint patrols to prevent more boats from leaving French beaches
    • Deploying more advanced technology, like sensors and radar.
    • Reciprocal maritime patrols in each other’s territorial waters and airborne surveillance
    • Deepening the work of the Joint Intelligence Cell, with better real-time intelligence-sharing to deliver more arrests and prosecutions on both sides of the Channel
    • Immediate work on a bilateral returns agreement with France, alongside talks to establish a UK-EU returns agreement

    Johnson says he is confident that these steps will enable the UK and France to "address illegal migration and prevent more families from experiencing the devastating loss we saw yesterday".

  8. BreakingUK PM wants deal to return migrants to France

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says agreeing a deal to return migrants who reach UK shores to France is the "single biggest step" both countries can take to stop people smuggling.

    In a series of tweets he said he had written to President Macron offering to move "further and faster" to prevent Channel crossings and avoid more deaths.

    He called for "immediate work on a bilateral returns agreement with France, alongside talks to establish a UK-EU returns agreement" - which he said would be the "single biggest step we could take together to reduce the draw to Northern France and break the business model of criminal gangs".

    View more on twitter
    View more on twitter
  9. 'Unspeakable...completely avoidable'

    About 30 miles along the coast from Dover, sodden lifejackets and empty dinghies lay outside Dungeness RNLI station following reports of further landings by migrants on the day the 27 died.

    Dover is not the sole destination for people smugglers who are behind the illegal crossings.

    Eastbourne, Hastings, St Leonards and Lydd are among other areas along the Kent and Sussex coastal strip which have also seen migrant landings.

    Dinghies on Dungeness beach

    Amid the sympathy and sorrow at the mass loss of life is anger among some who feel a sense of inevitability that this would at some point happen in the world's busiest shipping lane.

    Andy Roberts, a former coastguard manager for the Dover Straits, says: "The tragedy that happened yesterday has been inevitable. What we must not forget is the Dover Straits is the busiest thoroughfare for shipping in the world.

    "There is over 500 commercial shipping movements a day - that is excluding any pleasure craft or unorthodox craft such as the ones that the migrants are using. It absolutely was inevitable that this would happen and it's so tragic."

    Bridget Chapman, of the Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN), says adding more patrols on the French coast would push people to try to cross to the UK from countries like Belgium, involving longer and more dangerous journeys.

    She says: "Nothing the government has done has worked. Yesterday was unspeakable. It was completely avoidable. I am sad and I am really angry that it has happened."

  10. More police in France won't fix crisis - ex-Border Force boss

    Border force boat in Dover harbour

    A joint patrol at sea by the UK and France would be better placed to stop people trying to cross the Channel than expanding police patrols in northern France, a former Border Force boss has suggested.

    Mr Smith, a former Border Force director general, told the PA news agency joint patrols and an agreement to send people back to France would "break the business model in a stroke" as it would mean there would be "no point in paying a smuggler 5,000 euros (£4,200) to get into a small boat".

    Joint maritime patrols are "permissible under international law" and there is "no reason why we could not have a joint patrol along the English Channel on both sides", Mr Smith explained.

    However, he acknowledged it would raise broader political issues around immigration and asylum policy, because people picked up would need to be returned to France - as that is where they will have set off from.

    Earlier the Home Office said Home Secretary Priti Patel had made a clear offer to work with France and put more officers on the ground there.

  11. Patel has made clear offer to France - Home Office

    Priti Patel and Gerald Darmanin during a visit to Calais in July 2020.
    Image caption: Priti Patel and Gerald Darmanin during a visit to Calais in July 2020.

    As we reported earlier, the UK home secretary and French interior minister have been in talk over the English Channel deaths.

    The Home Office has now released a statement saying during this meeting, Priti Patel "made a clear offer" to Gerald Darmanin on joint patrols to prevent these dangerous journeys from taking place.

    "She offered to work with France to put more officers on the ground and do absolutely whatever is necessary to secure the area so that vulnerable people do not risk their lives by getting into unseaworthy boats," the statement says.

    The pair have agreed to meet this weekend to further this work and Patel says she will send officials and law enforcement officers to Paris tomorrow to "intensify joint cooperation and intelligence sharing".

  12. What does a Greece-style push-back look like?

    In September, we reported that the Home Office wanted to be able to turn around boats in the Channel and send them back to France - an act known as push-back.

    Earlier today UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said she “had not ruled anything out” and gave the example of “Greece in terms of push-backs”.

    She added that the Greeks use the military, special forces and the coastguard to achieve this.

    Human rights groups allege that thousands of people seeking asylum in Europe have been pushed back from Greece to Turkey before being given a chance to apply for asylum.

    In July, the BBC's Fergal Keane reported on Greek push-backs from the Greek island of Lesbos.

    Video content

    Video caption: The EU countries 'pushing back' asylum seekers at sea
  13. Thursday's main developments

    Members of migrant support associations gather next to a placard reading the number of dead and the names of the missing in Calais
    Image caption: Members of migrant support associations gather next to a placard reading the number of dead and the names of the missing in Calais

    As our live coverage moves into the evening, here's what we've learned today about the deaths of 27 people who tried to cross the English Channel in a small boat.

    • The UN's refugee agency said the loss of life was avoidable and urged countries to "expand safe and predictable routes to safety for refugees"
    • Among the dead were 17 men, seven women - one of whom was pregnant - and three children, believed to be Kurdish people from Iraq or Iran
    • Two people were rescued and are in a critical condition with severe hypothermia in hospital, one of whom was from Iraq and the other from Somalia
    • Five alleged traffickers have been arrested by French police and prosecutors have opened a manslaughter investigation
    • The cause of the accident is unknown, but the inflatable boat being used was found by rescuers mostly deflated
    • Reports indicate about 25 boats attempted the crossing yesterday, with at least two more boats carrying around 40 people arriving in Dover on Thursday
    • UK Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed she had already approved tactics including "boat turnarounds for Border Force to deploy".
    • But General secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) Mark Serwotka called this approach "against international law and morally reprehensible"
    • Religious leaders from across the UK called for a "better system" for people seeking to come to Britain

    For more details about what happened, click here.

  14. Calais vigil for Channel victims

    As night falls in Calais members of migrant support associations have gathered on Place Richelieu to protest for the rights of those fleeing persecution.

    Others have come with candles and flowers in tribute to the 27 men, women and children who died when their boat capsized in the English Channel yesterday.

    Earlier, police recovered a body from the beach in nearby Sangatte as more people continue to make the perilous journey a day after the biggest loss of life on record in the waterway.

    Members of migrant support associations gather to protest for the defence of migrants
    Image caption: Members of migrant support associations demonstrate for the rights of those fleeing persecution
    People gather near candles and flowers to pay tribute to the 27 people who died when their dinghy deflated as they attempted to cross the English Channel,
    Image caption: People have also been paying tribute to the 27 people who died
    In nearby Sangatte, French police earlier recovered a body from the beach as crossings continue
    Image caption: In nearby Sangatte, French police earlier recovered a body from the beach as crossings continue
  15. 'We picked up six bodies drifting in the water'

    One of the first people to reach the scene where a boat sank yesterday - killing 27 people - has been speaking about what he saw.

    Charles Devos, volunteer for the French National Sea Rescue organisation SNSM, described getting a mayday call from the coastguard.

    “We set out at around 14:50, we had a crew of four and headed out to the position indicated," he told local French radio station Delta FM.

    “When we got to the scene, the Flamant [French navy ship] was there, and a British helicopter and a French helicopter.

    “We patrolled the area and picked up six bodies that were drifting in the water. We passed next to an inflatable boat that was completely deflated. What little air remained was keeping it afloat. I don’t know if there were children, but we picked up [the body of] a pregnant woman and a young man who was around 18 or 20.

    “It’s hard to say, but I was expecting this. We know it would end in tragedy, and today sadly that’s the case.

    “With the water temperature as it is, hypothermia arrives very quickly and that’s that.

    “We’re out two or three times per week, usually around dawn as that’s when [migrant boats] are spotted by ships off Calais. Increasingly they’re overloaded, they have 10-metre long inflatable zodiacs, but unfortunately overloaded with 50 aboard.”

  16. UK and French ministers' talks 'positive'

    Laura Kuenssberg

    Political editor

    A government source has told the BBC that the talks between UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and her French counterpart Gérald Darmanin were "positive", and that both the UK and France have accepted that there needs to be more collaboration between the two governments to help tackle cross-Channel trafficking.

    It’s understood Patel will meet her French opposite number on Sunday.

    But some UK officials and law enforcement officers are travelling to France tonight to meet with their equivalents on the other side of the Channel to talk about how they can better work together.

  17. Why is it so hard to stop people crossing the Channel?

    French patrol guards

    After Wednesday's tragedy, the UK and France have agreed to crack down on the people traffickers and gangs putting people's lives at risk.

    Last month, the BBC's Lucy Williamson joined a French police patrol and asked - why are the smugglers so hard to stop?

    She spoke to Hamid, who took less than a week to find a people-smuggler in Calais.

    The networks run a slick and organised operation in the migrant camps here. Hamid got the fast-track service: within a couple of days, he found himself hiding near the beach with 75 other people, waiting to cross the Channel in a small inflatable boat.

    The strip of sea that separates Britain and France is tantalisingly narrow. At dawn, struck by the morning sun, the Dover cliffs gleam like a luminous streak of pearl above the water.

    The number of people attempting to make the trip has more that doubled this year.

    So why is it so difficult for two of the world's richest and most powerful nations to stop migrants crossing 20 miles (32km) of sea?

    Read in full: Channel smugglers step up risks to outfox France and UK

  18. 'We can’t survive here – we will freeze'

    Nick Beake & Kathy Long in Dunkirk

    migrants in northern France

    On a disused railway track, several small fires are burning and, as the smoke curls slowly upwards, a young man and woman attempt to dry out their socks and shoes over the flames. Next to them, another man is hacking at branches pulled from nearby woods.

    Nearby, a local charity is working at trestle tables to distribute enormous chunks of bread spread with jam and cheese. There are yoghurts and chocolate bread for the small handful of children scattered among the groups of people doing their best to endure the cold, the rain and the desperation.

    Scarves and hoods often obscure faces here – not necessarily because they want to hide, but because the temperature is low and the small thin tents and lean-tos are waterlogged.

    Most of the adults are in their 20s and early 30s, but often appear older. It’s not fear of the sea that keeps them camped in northern France – just lack of alternatives.

    “I can’t return, it’s too dangerous in my country,” says Sadar, who recently travelled from Afghanistan.

    “We can’t survive here – we will freeze,” says Serin, who is here with her husband Adil and 4 children, all sleeping in one tent.

    “The UK is better for keeping families together.”

    It’s taken them three years to get this far - her youngest born en route.

    Three migrant women with suitcases

    Another Afghan, Juma, who also fled the Taliban, says he wants to bring his daughters to the UK so that they can go to school and study.

    He knew some of those who died he says, and weeps quietly as he repeats what they told him: “They said goodbye…I said goodbye. They looked hopeful.”

    No matter how shocked they are by what happened last night, all those in the camp are determined to take their chance to cross the water. As more food arrives, this time hot chicken stew and bananas, the mood lifts.

    Soon, the temperature will drop and another night of waiting will begin.

  19. Why do people try to cross the English Channel?

    People cross the Channel

    Efforts are under way to identify 27 people who drowned crossing the English Channel. Their deaths have raised questions about why so many people are attempting the journey despite the dangerous conditions.

    For years, people smugglers have sent people to the UK in lorries. There have also been tragedies on these routes, including the 39 Vietnamese people found dead in a refrigerated lorry in 2019.

    But security at the Port of Calais in France - where UK border controls are - has been tightened. This means more attempts are being made to send people by boat, according to UK Border Force.

    In the few studies that exist, family ties have been identified as the main reason migrants wish to travel from France to the UK.

    In a survey of 402 people at the former Calais "Jungle" camp, researchers from the International Health journal found only 12% wanted to remain in France, while 82% planned to go to England.

    Of those that wanted to travel to England more than half (52%), said they already had a family member there.

    Read more here.

  20. Dover residents react to the deaths

    For many years, Dover and its famous White Cliffs have been the first sight for thousands of migrants who have made perilous journeys on dinghies across the English Channel.

    And in Dover, residents have voiced sadness over the drownings, along with frustration that it seemed to be a tragedy waiting to happen.

    On Biggin Street, in the shadow of Dover Castle, not far from where many migrants have landed, retired caretaker Phillip Jones, 67, sympathises with those fleeing war-torn countries in an effort to forge a better life in Britain.

    He says: "These people who are trying to come over here, they are still human beings. And we are not animals trying to stop them from coming over. We in Dover are just a gateway, to what they think will be a better life."

    Philip Jones
    Image caption: Phillip Jones believes France should take sterner action

    Georgia Gambrill, 18, expresses a sense of inevitability that a tragedy like this would end up happening, given the record numbers that have risked their lives to reach the UK recently.

    She says: "It's just sad that people have to do that sort of thing in order to get somewhere where they feel safe. I can't imagine what it must be like. And I know it sounds awful, but I think it was inevitable that this was going to happen, particularly at this time of year."

    Georgina Gambrill
    Image caption: Georgia Gambrill, 18, says the tragedy was inevitable

    Others express surprise that vast numbers of people continue to make the dangerous crossing, when in previous years they have tended to tail off before the setting in of winter.

    Retired teacher Klara Nelson says the French and British governments are powerless to stop future tragedies.

    "It can't be sorted here, it's got to be sorted at source - and by that I mean in Afghanistan or Iran, or wherever else they are coming from."

    Klara Nelson
    Image caption: Klara Nelson says the issue has to be sorted at "source" in the migrants' home countries