Immigration minister on Channel deaths: 'I feel a huge weight of responsibility'

Tom Pursglove says the deaths of at least 27 people, including young children, was 'unthinkable' and 'horrendous'

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An immigration minister has said he feels a “huge weight of responsibility” after what has been described as the “worst-recorded migrant tragedy in the Channel”.

Tom Pursglove told MPs and peers the deaths of at least 27 people, including young children, was “unthinkable” and “horrendous”.

Asked by the Joint Committee on Human Rights if the Government feels “any sense of responsibility” for the deaths, Mr Pursglove replied: “I feel a huge weight of responsibility as the minister for tackling illegal migration. And I think that all of us in this House feel an enormous weight of responsibility on this issue.

“And I feel that there is a profound duty to put these evil criminal gangs – that are responsible for this human misery, that treat individuals as cargo and are only interested in making a profit – out of business once and for all and to render this route unviable.

“All of the work that I’m doing is aimed in that direction and is working towards that outcome.

“I think what we saw last week is a dreadful tragedy. It is unthinkable.

“The thought that women and children and men lost their lives in this way is horrendous. And for me that only stiffens my resolve to work as hard as I possibly can to play my part, to render the route unviable with the ultimate objective in my mind of preserving life.”

Chairwoman Harriet Harman had opened the session saying the committee was hearing evidence “in the shadow of tragedy”, adding: “At least 27 people died last Wednesday in the worst-recorded migrant tragedy in the Channel.

“Among the dead was 17 men, seven women and three children. Reports are that one of the women was pregnant, while one of the children was just a little girl.

“Many of the dead appear to have been Kurds from Iraq and Iran and some may have been Arabs and Afghans, as well as other Iranians. And I think we all – the minister, officials, ourselves – we all have those people in our thoughts.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Number 10 insisted Boris Johnson and French president Emmanuel Macron had a close “working relationship” following a diplomatic spat over how best to tackle the Channel migrant crisis.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman was asked about the relationship between the two leaders following the former French ambassador Sylvie Bermann joking on Times Radio that ties had not been as bad since Waterloo.

Asked if Mr Johnson and Mr Macron were friends, the PM’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister’s been asked about this on a number of occasions and has talked about his close relationship… working relationship with President Macron.”