HOME Secretary Priti Patel has been accused of using “human suffering as a weapon” after she tweeted about the death of a migrant trying to cross the Channel.

The body of a 16-year-old Sudanese boy was found by French authorities today on Sangatte beach outside Calais after, they believe, he attempted to cross to England in a small boat.

Taking to Twitter, Patel wrote: “This is an upsetting and tragic loss of a young life.

“This horrendous incident serves as a brutal reminder of the abhorrent criminal gangs and people smugglers who exploit vulnerable people.

“Working together we are determined to stop them.”

The comment provoked a rapid backlash from opposition politicians, who said the death was “the result of deliberate UK Government policy” and labelled the Tory politician “despicable”.

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Peter Kyle, a Labour MP and the shadow minister for victims and youth justice, wrote: “No, it’s a brutal reminder of the consequences of having a Home Secretary that uses human suffering as a weapon to ‘send the left into meltdown’ as her priority rather than seeing it as an unfolding tragedy that sensitive policy can ameliorate.”

His Labour colleague, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, also questioned Patel’s comment, asking: “The ‘exploited vulnerable people’ who you’re deploying Navy warships against?


Common Weal’s Dr Craig Dalzell added that “the UK Government is deliberately inflicting death and suffering” by refusing “an open, safe and legal route to asylum”.

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The Scottish Greens’ co-leader Patrick Harvie (above) commented: “It's not enough to call this upsetting and tragic, when it's the result of deliberate UK government policy.

“People need safe routes, now.”

Harvie was echoed by the Scottish Refugee Council’s chief executive, Sabir Zazai, who told The National: “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and are sending our thoughts and solidarity to all our colleagues working with people seeking sanctuary at both sides of the Channel.

“The death of yet another child at our border was utterly avoidable. He was a young person with hopes and dreams.

“The UK must live up to our tradition of being a welcoming place and build safer routes for people to seek protection.

“How many more needless deaths will it take?”

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A Home Office spokesperson told The National that they were not able to comment as it was a “French operation being investigated and prosecuted in France”.

Patel’s tweet referenced another from French citizenship minister Marlene Schiappa, which said (translated into English): “Immense sadness: a 16-year-old Sudanese migrant who disappeared at sea last night was found dead on the beach of Sangatte this morning.

“This unbearable drama mobilizes us again … against the smugglers who take advantage of the distress of human beings!”

Asked if Patel had seen proof that the boy had, as she claimed, been exploited by “criminal gangs and people smugglers”, the spokesperson said: "These crossings are generally facilitated by criminal gangs, but on this incident we can't comment beyond what the Home Secretary has said, [which] is very much a general statement."