Uniting for Change: Cross-Border Coalition Demands Reforms on Anniversary of Channel Crossing Disaster

Europe Uniting for Change: Cross-Border Coalition Demands Reforms on Anniversary of Channel Crossing Disaster

Marking two years since the harrowing Channel crossing that resulted in at least 27 deaths, a collective of over 100 activists, organisations, and networks from various countries, including the UK, France, Belgium, Africa, and North America, have issued a poignant call for comprehensive policy change at the shared Belgium-France-UK border. This demand, reflecting a profound concern for migrant safety, urges a shift from what is termed "the racist logic of deadly border violence" to a framework underpinned by the "values and principles of welcome and free movement."

Nikolaï Posner, representing Utopia 56, a signatory to the statement, passionately argued for accountability and justice for the 24 November 2021 victims and all seeking refuge in Europe. "We cannot allow this tragedy to be forgotten. We demand justice for the victims of that night and for everyone striving for a safer life in Europe. Our fight for safe migration routes and freedom of movement is unwavering," he said.

The collective statement extends support to families currently engaged in legal actions in France, aiming to illuminate the events of that tragic November night when a distressed boat in the Channel was left without rescue, leading to a significant loss of life. This incident starkly highlights the deficiencies in existing rescue protocols and a seeming indifference to international maritime rescue laws.

Activists and organisations, demonstrating solidarity and remembrance, are convening at various locations, including Folkestone, Hastings, Dunkirk, and Paris. These gatherings are not just memorials for those lost on 24 November 2021 but also for all who have perished at the border, underscoring a united demand for justice and change.

This movement for change has been spearheaded by the Crossborder Forum, an alliance of civil society groups and activists across Belgium, France, and the UK. Francesca Humi, the Coordinator of the Forum, is available for further information and can be reached through the provided contact details.

The collective outcry coincides with a revealing report from the UK Department for Transport, pinpointing critical lapses in the HM Coastguard's rescue operations on that fateful night. These lapses included poor visibility, inadequate aerial surveillance, and insufficient staffing to handle SOS calls. The British government, prompted by these findings, has committed to an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the shipwreck.

The joint statement criticises the persistent 'racist and security-focused' migration policies of the French, Belgian, and British governments, which have only heightened the risks for migrants. Since 1999, the death toll of those attempting to reach the UK has escalated to at least 385, with a notable spike in fatalities since November 2021.

The statement culminates in a powerful call for a radical overhaul of policies at European borders, advocating for a humane, rights-based approach to migration. This unified stance across numerous organisations and activists is a testament to the ongoing commitment to safeguarding the rights of migrants, with their right to life being paramount.

For a comprehensive view of the joint statement and a complete list of signatories, interested parties are directed to the Crossborder Forum's link.

William Gomes
William Gomes

South Asia correspondent.
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