PRITI Patel has been told that "children died on your doorstep" after four people were killed when a migrant boat sank off the coast of France yesterday.

Director of campaign group Detention Action Bella Sankey told the home secretary to "leave the thoughts and prayers to the rest of us" in a scathing response to the Conservative MP's statement on the incident on Twitter.

She said: "You have awesome powers and you could prevent further deaths, overnight, by creating a safe and legal asylum route to the UK from Northern France.

"These children died on your doorstep."

Her comments came following the death of four people including two young children, aged five and eight, after a migrant boat capsized in the English Channel yesterday.

More than a dozen people have been taken to hospital and searches have been carried out for any others caught up in the tragedy.

Detention Action is an organisation which exists to support people held in immigration detention and to campaign for "fundamental reform".

The Argus:

Director Bella Sankey, who stood as a Labour candidate in Arundel and South Downs constituency during the last election, has previously argued against inaccurate but widely held views surrounding migration.

She appeared on TalkRadio earlier this month, where presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer said the "off-the-scale and incredibly dangerous" number of migrants seen crossing the English Channel during lockdown "does need a radical solution".

Mrs Sankey said: "I'm not saying that people crossing the Channel isn't a problem, of course it is because it's a dangerous route."

The breakfast show host interrupted, saying that it was "also illegal".

Mrs Sankey said: "It's not actually illegal Julia, to claim asylum here."

Mrs Hartley-Brewer argued that "I can't arrive in a country without a passport and I'm British" and "the Dublin Convention says if you're coming from a safe country you should need to stay in that safe country and claim asylum".

But the Detention Action director said she could if she was claiming asylum, saying the radio show host's claims were "a myth".

She said: "That's actually wrong. In law, and I'm telling you this as someone with legal expertise, that's not what the Dublin Convention says.

"It says that states have the right to try and return somebody to a country they have passed through.

"There's no obligation on someone to claim asylum in any country other than a country where they feel safe."

She continued: "People have a right to claim asylum. Of course then, the UK government will process their asylum claim, and that's a really tough process where not all of those who have claims will have them accepted.

"So it's not a free for all at all, but of course the right to safety has to be a personal one because people flee for all sorts of reasons.

For example, in a Caribbean country which you or I might feel really happy to go on holiday, someone who is gay may be facing persecution.

The Argus:

Mrs Sankey also pointed to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which the UK is signed up to.

A government document on the convention states: "Article 31 provides that refugees should not have any penalties imposed upon them as a consequence of illegally entering or being present in the country of refuge illegally in order to seek sanctuary, provided that they travel to the country of refuge directly from the territory where they fear persecution, present themselves to the domestic authorities without delay and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence."

Following the deaths of four people yesterday following the sinking of a migrant ship, home secretary Priti Patel issued a statement.

It read: "I am truly saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life in French waters this morning.

The Argus:

"My thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones at this time.

"We are in touch with our French counterparts who are leading on the response and have offered whatever support they need as they investigate this incident.

"This tragic news highlights the dangers that come with crossing the Channel and I will do everything I can to stop callous criminals exploiting vulnerable people."