A vigil will be held outside Thanet council’s offices in Margate this evening (November 24) to mark the one year anniversary of at least 27 deaths when a small boat carrying people across the Channel capsized.
The men, women and children aboard died in the sea. There were officially 27 dead but it is likely that five people on the boat who were never found also died.
Initially five arrests were made in connection with the incident. Earlier this year National Crime Agency officers assisted an operation in France which resulted in more than a dozen further arrests in connection with the deaths.
OCRIEST, the French border police unit targeting immigration crime, arrested 15 people across locations in France in June, as part of a joint investigation being carried out with the NCA.
NCA officers based in the UK and internationally worked with colleagues in OCRIEST and other international partners to provide evidence to identify those who were arrested in France.
Among those held in the operation were nationals of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and France. They are suspected of being part of a network of facilitators who organised places on the boat for a number of those who died. They are subject to French judicial proceedings.
The vigil at 6pm tonight is being held outside the council offices because councillors at a scrutiny meeting are due to discuss the topic of Manston holding facility.
Protestor Christine Tongue said: “This vigil is one of many being held across the country to mark the terrible deaths of 27 men, women and children who a year ago died crossing the channel seeking asylum.
“While we will be remembering the people who died so tragically trying to come to Britain, we will not forget the plight of the refugees who’ve actually made it here.”
Protesters want an investigation into the conditions at the Manston centre, which the Home Office says is now empty. At one point some 4000 people were at the centre which was designed to process up to 1,600 people at any one time within a 24/48 hour period. However, high numbers of small boat crossings, a firebomb incident in Dover that ecessitated the move of 700 people and backlogs in the asylum claim system meant some people had been at the centre much longer than the mandated limit.
The Public and Commercial Services union has claimed that the rapid removal of people out of Manston processing centre came after the union, , Detention Action and a woman held at the facility issued legal action against Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
The complaint against the Home Secretary contends the woman was detained:
- in excess of statutory time limits;
- in overcrowded, unhygienic and unsafe conditions that constitute inhuman or degrading treatment;
- beyond the legal powers of the home secretary;
- contrary to the government’s published detention policy;
- in violation of the right not to be detained arbitrarily;
- in inadequate conditions with a lack of privacy, where she was denied telephone access to family members and lawyers.
PCS head of bargaining Paul O’Connor said: “The conditions at Manston that refugees and our members have had to endure recently have been a disgrace. We’re pleased the Home Secretary has been forced to respond to our concerns but we shouldn’t have needed to resort to the threat of legal action before they were addressed.
“The government’s entire approach on asylum is a failure. Our members need the time, space and resources to deliver a functioning system free from the type of crisis management we see all too often.
“It’s time to design a system based on a rational assessment of need and for the Home Secretary to drop her increasingly irrational rhetoric on the issue.”
A government spokesperson said: “The global migration crisis continues to place an unprecedented and unsustainable strain on our asylum system, which is why we remain focussed on deterring illegal migration and disrupting the criminal gangs responsible for these dangerous crossings.”