‘The tragedy we feared’: What the French papers said about the Channel disaster

·3-min read
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent (PA)
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent (PA)

Last night’s tragedy in the Channel led the front pages and news websites in France on Thursday morning, with many reporting the President’s comments that “France will not let the Channel become a cemetery”.

Leading national French newspaper, Le Monde, reported on the outrage from activists who gathered in the port of Calais and watched as emergency services carried the bodies of the victims to shore. One person carried a sign saying: “How many deaths will you need?” and Alexine Fougner, who has been helping migrants living in nearby camps, told the paper: “When we say that borders kill, that’s really it.”

Another activist, Olivier Maillard, referred to the small gathering at the port and said “empathy is running out in this country”. He added: “They were men, women, children, humans. We would be 5,000 tonight and we are 50.”

The paper reported that most of the victims were Kurdish, from Iraq or Iran. They noted Emmanuel Macron’s comments about not letting the Channel become a cemetery, saying: “Actually, it’s already become one.”

Le Monde also noted the Wednesday evening phone call between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron. The French President reportedly “let Boris Johnson know that he expected the British to cooperate fully” during the call “and refrain from using a dramatic situation for political ends”.

The front page of French daily newspaper Libération on Thursday November 25, following the tragedy in the Channel (Liberation)
The front page of French daily newspaper Libération on Thursday November 25, following the tragedy in the Channel (Liberation)

The centre-left tabloid, Libération, used a photo of a mother carrying her children on the beach in Dungeness, on the south-east coast of England, on their front page. The family had been rescued while trying to make the perilous journey across the Channel on Wednesday.

The paper referred to the Channel as “deadlier than ever” in their headline.

They reported on the Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin’s comments, made in Calais on Wednesday evening, where he spoke of a “great national mourning for France, for Europe.” He said that people smugglers were responsible for “this despicable situation” but also added that a response must “come from Great Britain”, saying: “the traffickers often play on our lack of our cooperation”.

The regional paper, La voix du Nord, reported on ‘the tragedy we feared would happen’ which they described as the ‘heaviest toll ever taken’ (La voix du nord)
The regional paper, La voix du Nord, reported on ‘the tragedy we feared would happen’ which they described as the ‘heaviest toll ever taken’ (La voix du nord)

The regional paper, La Voix du Nord, dedicated their front page to the incident, describing it as “The tragedy we feared would happen”.

Their piece on the crisis opened with the sentence: “A nightmare”, and went on to describe a country in shock “stunned by a drama that everyone dreaded”.

Le Parisien daily paper made the tragedy front page news with the headline: “Tragedy off the coast of Calais”. Their summary of the news read: “Yesterday evening, at least 27 people, including a girl, died in the Channel while trying make the crossing in a makeshift boat.

Le Parisien daily paper leads with news of the migrant crisis. (Le Parisien)
Le Parisien daily paper leads with news of the migrant crisis. (Le Parisien)

Le Figaro, reported the comments made by the volunteers with the SNSM rescue service in Calais. The volunteers called the deaths in the Channel “group murder” and Charles Devos, boss of the ship Notre-Dame du Risban, said: “We recovered six bodies adrift.

“They have makeshift inflatable boats which are around 10 metres long, but unfortunately, there were fifty people on board.”

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