The tragedy of refugee boats in the English Channel should serve as a “wake up call” for British and French leaders, charity chiefs said.
Two children, ages five and eight, and two adults died after the ship sank off the coast of Dunkirk on Tuesday, French authorities said.
More than a dozen other people have been hospitalized and the search for other parties continues.
It is reported to be the largest fatality during the current refugee crisis, with the total death toll rising to 10 since 2018.
Clare Moseley, who founded Care4Calais refugee crisis charity, said the incident was a “wake-up call” for those in power in Britain and France.
She said: “We mourn the victims, we are in sympathy and solidarity with their families and friends. It is cruel and terrible that this time young children are among the victims.
“We need to put in place a safe and legal process for refugees to hear their UK asylum claims. This can end terrifying, dangerous crossings and stop the tragedy again.”
Charity Save the Children added: “The tragic news must be a wake-up call for London and Paris to work out a joint plan to ensure the safety of vulnerable children and families. The English Channel must not become a cemetery for children. “
Military resources and civil boats were involved in the rescue operation after the ship got into trouble near Dunkirk.
French Citizenship Minister Marlene Schiappa said she learned of the tragic incident with “great sadness”. She added, “Despite the state’s resources, all of which have been mobilized as part of the SOS operation, losses are high and the final toll is still uncertain.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was “really sad” to learn of the deaths and reiterated her commitment to targeting people smugglers.
She said: “We are in contact with our French colleagues who are leading the response and who have offered all the assistance they need in investigating this incident.
“This tragic news highlights the dangers of crossing the Canal and I will do everything I can to prevent calloused criminals from exploiting vulnerable people.”
Echoing Ms. Patel’s comments, Boris Johnson said: “My thoughts go with the families of those who tragically lost their lives on the Canal. We have offered all our assistance to the French authorities in investigating this terrible incident. “