ampaigners have called for a “humane” approach to the asylum system after six people died following the sinking of a boat carrying migrants in the Channel.
The Refugee Council urged the Government to respond with “compassion” to the incident while Freedom from Torture accused ministers of “hostile” attitudes towards refugee protection.
Opposition MPs said the tragedy highlighted the need for action to prevent dangerous crossings being made.
Kolbassia Haoussou, from Freedom from Torture, said: “The tragic news of yet more deaths in the Channel, including serious injuries to many others, demonstrates the continued failure of the UK Government’s hostile approach to refugee protection.
“The UK Government has used the demonisation of refugees as a tactic to distract us from their failings, which have left us with a cost-of-living crisis, the NHS on its knees, and public sector strikes. If this Government fails to humanely address this issue, then innocent lives will continue to be lost.”
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the incident “underscores the need for meaningful action” to reduce dangerous crossings, and urged the Government to focus on creating an “orderly and humane asylum system”.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life in today’s sinking of a boat in the English Channel. Our hearts go out to the victims, survivors, and their loved ones. We also thank the rescuers who helped save many lives under harrowing circumstances,” he said.
He accused the Government of “focusing on passing expensive and unworkable legislation and shutting down existing safe ways to get to the UK”, adding: “There are constructive alternatives we have set out that would create an orderly and humane asylum system.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said it is “desperately” necessary to stop dangerous crossings and “the terrible criminal smuggling gangs who profit while lives are lost.”
“Awful news coming from Channel. Another tragedy with yet more lives lost or at risk,” she said.
Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said the latest incident was an “appalling, deeply shocking tragedy”.
“We must stop these crossings and defeat the criminal people smugglers,” he wrote on Twitter.
“There can be no more headline-chasing gimmicks or madcap schemes that just make everything worse.”
Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, said the fatal incident reinforced the need for joint patrols in the Channel.
“Today’s tragedy underlines why we must stop the small boats to keep people safe and prevent loss of life in the Channel,” she said.
“These overcrowded and unseaworthy deathtraps should obviously be stopped by the French authorities from leaving the French coast in the first place.
“The time has come for joint patrols on the French coast and a cross-Channel security zone before any more lives are lost.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “We are aware of an incident in the Channel. HM Coastguard are working on a co-ordinated response and further information will be provided in due course.”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic loss of life in the Channel today.
“I have spoken with our Border Force teams this morning who have been supporting the French authorities in response to this incident.”