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Refugee feared to have drowned off Essex coast

Campaigners warn Tory policies are making the route more dangerous

A REFUGEE is feared to have drowned off the Essex coast while attempting to cross the Channel, with campaigners warning that Tory policies are making the route more dangerous. 

Two men from Somalia were rescued on Monday afternoon following a co-ordinated search-and-rescue operation near Harwich by Border Force, the RNLI and HM Coastguard. 

But the search for a third person, reported to have entered the sea in international waters, was called off at 2pm on Tuesday, the Home Office said. 

The disappearance comes exactly one year after five members of a Kurdish-Iranian family, including a 15-month-old boy, died after their boat capsized in French waters.

A 27-year-old Eritrean man also died in August off the coast of France.

Channel Rescue member Richard, who did not want to give his surname, told the Morning Star that the incident this week was “tragic but inevitable.”

The group, which monitors refugee crossings along the English coast, said it is concerned that people are taking increasingly dangerous journeys as French authorities disrupt more boat launches from Calais on the orders of the British government. 

“People [are] launching now from further south [on the French coast],” he said.

“We’re seeing a rise of people landing in Dungeness instead of Dover, so people [who] were making an eight-hour journey are now making an 18 to 19-hour journey. It’s getting very, very dangerous.

“This is a direct product of the government’s policies.

“I think they’re making it quite clear they want the Channel to be a deterrent to people claiming asylum.”

In a statement, the Home Office said: “While the investigation into this incident continues, it is a reminder of the extreme dangers of crossing the Channel in small boats and the callous disregard for life shown by the criminal gangs.”

But the incident has sparked renewed calls for the creation of safe and legal routes.

“There’s no need to turn the Channel into a lethal obstacle course when people could be claiming asylum in France [for resettlement in the UK],” the Channel Rescue volunteer said.

“And we have a duty to shoulder our global responsibilities.”

Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon said: “The sad reality is that unless this government fundamentally changes its approach by committing to an ambitious expansion of safe routes for those in need of protection, the lives of ordinary men, women and children will be at risk of being lost in this way.”

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