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English Channel migrant death toll revised to 27; Macron demands action

By Zarrin Ahmed
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English Channel migrant death toll revised to 27; Macron demands action
Migrants arrive at Dover, England, Thursday after being rescued in the English Channel by the British Border Force. Britain and France are continuing ongoing talks in a bid to resolve the migrant crisis. Photo by Stuart Brock/EPA-EFE

Nov. 25 (UPI) -- The migrant death toll from a capsizing in the English Channel was revised downward to 27 Thursday as French President Emmanuel Macron demanded more resources to combat human smuggling.

The death toll was initially reported at 31 Wednesday night by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. Of the 33 people on board, two were rescued, he said at the time.

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The interior ministry said Thursday the revised death toll is still preliminary, and the exact number of people on the boat is still undetermined. French and British authorities continue rescue operations by air and sea searching for anyone in the water.

A fishing boat sounded an alarm on Wednesday after spotting several people at sea.

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Authorities say four smugglers may have been involved in the crossing from France, which prompted an emergency meeting called by Macron.

The French leader said he would not allow the English Channel to "become a graveyard" or let smugglers put others' lives at risk while demanding increased resources for the European Union's Frontex border protection agency.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex tweeted that the shipwreck was "a tragedy," while British Home Secretary Priti Patel said Thursday that Britain would do whatever necessary to prevent people from risking their lives to cross the channel.

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"People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach; nobody needs to flee France in order to be safe," she told Parliament. Criminals, she said, have threatened and bullied migrants and have "complete disregard for human rights."

Patel urged MPs to back the Conservatives' Nationality and Borders Bill which curbs immigration to Britain. Part of the bill processes asylum seekers and take into account how they arrive at the border.

Fatal border crossings in the English Channel have risen recently.

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