Candlelight vigil to remember the 27 people who drowned in Channel

Sussex residents are holding a vigil tonight for the 27 people who drowned crossing the Channel yesterday (Wednesday, November 24).

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 10:57 am
Updated Thursday, 25th November 2021, 12:14 pm

The vigil, organised by Stand Up To Racism, Hastings Community of Sanctuary, and Hastings Supports Refugees will take place at 6pm at the Stade in Hastings Old Town. Jane Grimshaw, from Hastings Supports Refugees, asked people to bring “a banner, a candle, a message of support.” She also said the group is planning a “big rally” for December 11 and details would follow soon.

Rachael Roser, also from the group, said: “As a community, we feel so very, very sad to hear about the people who lost their lives in the Channel yesterday. The Hastings Supports Refugees team has met many people in the last few weeks just like those who died. We have met women, children, boys and men who have been rescued at sea in our role of first responders providing warm drinks and blankets. The situation is desperately sad and our heart goes out to the people who died and their families and also to the survivors.”

Other vigils and events are expected to be held across Sussex in the coming days to remember the 27 people who died after a boat heading for the UK capsized off the northern coast of France yesterday. They included seven women - one of whom was pregnant - and three children. The International Organization for Migration said the incident was the biggest single loss of life in the Channel since it began collecting data in 2014.

Vigil to be held at the Stade in Hastings Old Town

Last week, businesses and local people were thanked for helping 93 people who arrived on Hastings beach after being rescued by lifeboats in the Channel.

One group - 35 men and five teenage boys - spent two days at sea in a small dinghy before they were picked up by Hastings RNLI inshore lifeboat on November 16. RNLI crew helped them on to the shore near the harbour arm in Hastings Old Town. They were met by police stationed on the beach and later handed over to Border Force officials.

Volunteers from Hastings Supports Refugees handed out hot drinks, food, warm clothing and blankets to the group - from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and various African countries. One of the men was treated for a foot injury. There were also five boys, aged 13 to 17, from Syria and Eritrea.

Rachael said the men were in a “bad condition” and were “very cold and very wet” after spending so long at sea. They had left Calais at 6am on November 15 and were heading to Dover when they drifted off course. They were rescued near Dungeness.

RNLI and police on Hastings beach. Picture by Sam Curtis SUS-211111-135333001

She praised pubs in the Old Town and nearby cafes for providing free chips and hot drinks for the group. Officials from Hastings Borough Council arrived and opened up Stade Hall so the men could warm up inside. Rachael, 50, added: “What’s overwhelmingly wonderful is it feels like everybody in the whole town is helping. So it started off with

just a handful of volunteers giving out cereal bars and cold drinks. Now we’ve got the pubs bringing portions of chips and the cafes bringing hot teas. St Mary Star of the Sea Church in the Old Town had done a collection on Sunday and raised £477 and donated toothpaste, toothbrushes and toiletries.”

She said volunteers gave the five youngsters their mobile phones so they could contact their families on WhatsApp to let them know they were safe: “The young lad who was 13 had my phone and he phoned home to Syria to say that he’d arrived safely and hadn’t drowned. And the look on his face when he was saying, ‘Mum! I’m here!’ was absolutely wonderful.” The group were taken off on a Border Force bus to Dover at around 8.30pm.

On November 11, local businesses helped 53 people who arrived on Hastings beach after being rescued by lifeboats in the Channel. The group - including several children - were handed over to Border Force officials. In total, 1,185 people crossed the Channel by boat to reach the UK on November 11, a new record for migrant crossings in a single day. Four Border Force vessels intercepted boats and escorted them into Dover.

Lifejackets worn by the 40 migrants who arrived on Hastings beach on Tuesday

:: The Links Project, a drop-in service for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Hastings, has received a £2,000 donation from Hastings Supports Refugees and Hastings Community of Sanctuary. Links service users often arrive in Hastings needing warm clothes and food, and the project provides the initial support to help them.