A second migrant has died while crossing the English Channel in as many months, reports the Daily Mail.
The tragic news comes as Border Force officials were warned they may be breaking the law unless those crossing ‘consent’ to having their boats turned around.
Sussex Police said the body of a man was recovered by Coastguard officials in the mid-English channel on Saturday afternoon and brought to Eastbourne.
It follows the death of a 27-year-old man aboard a boat carrying 40 people who was airlifted to hospital after a huge air and sea rescue operation in the Channel in August.
David Hammond, former Royal Navy barrister and chief executive of charity Human Rights At Sea, told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘As soon as one or more of those migrants panic or think it will be quicker to get on board the vessel by getting into the water, then push back immediately stops and you have the requirement to save life at sea under at least three international conventions.
‘It changes in a split second, then Border Force will have to make a call then and there to stop what they are doing and immediately go into a search and rescue role.’
And Tory MP Tim Loughton, a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said it was ‘not going to happen’ as the vessels would capsize and migrants might drown.
However, the UK would not infringe international law in a bid to tackle the number of migrants crossing the English Channel from France, a Cabinet minister insisted last week.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said his colleague – Home Secretary Priti Patel – is “rightly exploring every possible avenue” to address the situation, adding: “We have said that that will include looking at turning migrants back, but that will only be done in accordance with international law, and clearly the safety of migrants is absolutely paramount.”
It comes after Britain and France became embroiled in a war of words over efforts to halt the crossings, with French interior minister Gerald Darmanin hitting back at Ms Patel after it emerged that she had sanctioned tactics to turn back migrant boats towards the Continent to stop them making the journey to the UK.
The suggestion has prompted an outcry from aid charities and campaigners who branded the plan “cowardly” and “cruel” and one which could risk the lives of migrants, while the legality of the tactic has been called into question.
Mr Darmanin said France would not accept any practices which breach maritime laws, or be subjected to financial blackmail – a reference to suggestions from Ms Patel that she could withhold millions of pounds of cash promised to help step up patrols unless an improvement in the number of migrants intercepted by French authorities is seen.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Dowden said: “Firstly, in relation to these migrants, it is worth remembering they are coming from a safe country, which is France.
“This has been a persistent problem for a long period of time. The Home Secretary is rightly exploring every possible avenue to stop that.
“We have said that that will include looking at turning migrants back, but that will only be done in accordance with international law, and clearly the safety of migrants is absolutely paramount.
“We would not do anything to endanger lives, clearly, but I think the public at large would expect us to be taking measures to prevent people from travelling from the safe country of France to England, and I think it is right to consider all measures.
“The most important thing about this is the real beneficiaries of this are these criminal gangs who are organising this transport – this is really not in the interest of people who of course have their reasons for wanting to come here.”