European migration officials meet after deaths in Channel

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Top European migration officials are holding an emergency meeting Sunday in the French port of Calais to find ways to better fight migrant smuggling

CALAIS, France — Top European migration officials are holding an emergency meeting Sunday in the French port of Calais to find ways to better fight migrant smuggling, after 27 people died trying to cross the English Channel to Britain in an overcrowded inflatable boat.

Government ministers from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France will meet in Calais with officials from the European Union and EU border agency Frontex and police agency Europol.

They are focusing on smuggling networks, who charge from 3,000 to 7,000 euros for the journey across the Channel. France’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said a car with German tags was seized in connection with the investigation.

Aid groups argue for more humane, coordinated asylum policies instead of just more police. At camps along the French coast, clusters of people from Sudan and Kurds from Iran and Iraq huddle under the chilly rain, waiting for their chance to cross the Channel. They’re undeterred by Wednesday’s deaths or the stepped-up beach patrols.

The number of migrants trying to cross the channel in small boats has jumped this year, amid pandemic travel restrictions and after Brexit. Overall, however, the number of migrants arriving in Britain is low compared with other European countries.

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