THE BBC has been criticised for its use of the word "migrants" in coverage of the English Channel tragedy.

At least 27 people, including pregnant women and children, died when a dinghy capsized off the coast of Calais on Wednesday.

According to The Times, one of the people who died in the tragedy was an Afghan man who’d worked with the British armed forces. It was reported that he and his family took the risk of travelling over the Channel as they had “waited for long for help” from the UK Government.

There was an outpouring of grief from campaigners and charities, who called for answers and urgent changes to current policies – while politicians said a solution needed to be found to tackle the crisis.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said people are being driven to seek refuge out of “desperation” and a “lack of humanitarian alternative routes”.

READ MORE: English Channel deaths: Nicola Sturgeon calls for action to prevent further tragedy

"We should be working together to ensure that those seeking refuge get protection from exploitation, not get punishment or criminalisation,” she told Holyrood.

“They need rescue, not diversion back into treacherous waters."

The First Minister is understood to be referencing the Home Secretary’s plan to make crossing the Channel illegal without permission, and have border staff force boats back into French waters. There are legal concerns over whether this would be a possible strategy.

Rosella Pagliuchi-Lor, UK representative for UN refugee agency UNHCR, said: “There is an obligation to both save lives at sea and not endanger lives at sea, which would almost unavoidably happen if there were attempts at turning back dinghies which are overcrowded with people.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the drownings were a “dreadful shock” and described the crossings as “absolutely unnecessary” after renewing an offer of sending British officers to join patrols on French beaches during a call with French interior minister Gerald Darmanin. French President Emmanuel Macron said he was requesting “extra help” from the UK.

Brendan O’Hara, the MP for Argyll and Bute, called the deaths in the Channel an “unspeakable tragedy” - and hit out at the media reports of the incident.

He said: “Last night I tuned in to the BBC 10 o’clock news to get the latest on this terrible disaster and I was absolutely appalled when a presenter informed me that around 30 migrants had drowned. Migrants don’t drown. People drown. Men, women and children drown.

“So will the Secretary of State join me in asking the BBC News editorial team and any other news outlet thinking of using that term to reflect on their use of such dehumanising language and afford these poor people the respect that they deserve.”

READ MORE: UK Government's 'racist anti-refugee bill could start race to the bottom’

Priti Patel said: “Even during the Afghan operations and Op Pitting I heard a lot of language that quite frankly seemed to be inappropriate around people who were fleeing.

“So yes, I will.”

A spokesperson for the BBC said: “We always think carefully about the language we use and in this report we have made very clear the human cost of this tragedy. It is not always obvious whether those making these crossings already have refugee status, are seeking asylum, looking for work, the stage of their journey, or whether they will try to enter a country illegally. We judge each story on a case by case basis.”