Public Law solicitor Maria Thomas speaks to the Guardian following an investigation into the Channel disaster of 2021, which found that the UK coastguard downgraded 999 calls from refugees in days before mass drowning
According to internal documents the UK coastguards reclassified emergency calls from refugees seeking assistance on their way to England just days before the most significant Channel tragedy in decades. The HM Coastguard may have violated its own protocol by deeming distress calls from up to four small boats, carrying 155 individuals, as not requiring immediate rescue, as revealed through an examination of incident logs obtained by the Observer and Liberty Investigates.
Among the downgraded calls was one reporting a boat with "sick babies" on board, and a coastguard helicopter noted that half of the passengers lacked lifejackets. The logs detailing these incidents, occurring four days prior to the tragic event on November 24, 2021, which claimed the lives of at least 27 migrantspeople, do not specify whether rescue boats were dispatched.
Newly published logs raise concerns about the UK's handling of small boat crossings leading up to the tragic event. The logs reveal six additional reports of small boats on November 20, all considered of lower priority by HM Coastguard. Nearly all of the ten boats mentioned in the investigation were confirmed to be in UK waters, with the location of two boats unclear to call handlers.
This news came just days before the MAIB published its investigation into the events of 24 November 2021. Public Law solicitor Maria Thomas, who is representing a survivor and families of 18 individuals who lost their lives in the November 24 drownings, expressed deep concern over the findings.
Emphasising the importance of a comprehensive and independent statutory inquiry, she highlighted that the "extremely concerning" revelations underscore the families' right to answers after being side-lined from the process for the past two years.
To read the full article detailing the recently published logs, see here:
Channel Crossing Disaster Guardian report
The story has also been reported in the Independent here here
About Maria Thomas
Maria Thomas is a solicitor and supervisor within the Public Law and Immigration departments at Duncan Lewis Solicitors. Highlighted by Matrix Chambers for giving ’magic circle service for her vulnerable and disenfranchised clients’, Maria conducts of a broad range of claims for judicial review; challenging trafficking decisions, removals, detention and inadequate accommodation provided by the state.
For advice or assistance on a Public Law matter, contact Maria via email at MariaT@duncanlewis.com or via telephone on 020 3114 1237
Duncan Lewis Solicitors
The immigration and public law department at Duncan Lewis stands as a beacon of legal excellence, recognised as Top Tier in both Chambers and Legal 500 rankings. Specialising in human rights, asylum, and deportation cases, our team boasts unparalleled proficiency. We have achieved significant successes for our clients, establishing ourselves as leaders in pioneering public interest litigation. Fearlessly challenging legal and political conditions, we often invoke common law, constitutional, and human rights arguments to advocate for justice.
Our practice encompasses a wide spectrum, ranging from immigration and asylum to human rights and deportation matters. We have carved a niche in immigration and civil liberties claimant judicial review cases, displaying our dedication to upholding fundamental rights and liberties. With an unwavering commitment to our clients, we navigate complex legal landscapes with finesse, ensuring the protection of human rights in every case we handle.