The deaths at sea of 27 people seeking refuge in Britain have brought back “horrible memories” for Reading’s refugee community.

A girl, two teenage boys, 17 men and seven women – one of whom was pregnant according to the Times – lost their lives when a dinghy capsized off the coast of Calais.

Jonjo Warrick, of Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG), described how the tragedy had triggered the trauma of those in the town who had previously made the perilous channel crossing.

“We’re all heartbroken. It’s horrific,” he said.

“I think it was about 1C last night in Reading, I can only imagine what it was like at sea.”

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He continued: “Some of my colleagues and a lot of people we’ve supported have had to make similarly dangerous journeys and we know that it’s going to be hard for them to cope with - particularly heartbreaking and traumatizing, bringing backs lots of horrible memories.”

Mr Warrick added: “We’re sending out thoughts and prayers to the loved ones of everyone involved.”

Research by the Refugee Council indicates that between January 2020 and June this year, 91 per cent of migrants crossing the channel came from 10 countries where human rights abuses and persecution are common.

Two thirds of those crossing the channel would likely be recognized as in need of protection by a UK Government assessment, the charity found.

“The reason you’ve had to flee and become refugee – no-one does it though choice – it’s war, it’s discrimination of your gender or your sexuality, it’s violence against your ethnicity,” said Mr Warrick.

“All those horrific things mean people have had to flee in the night and never see their relatives again or have seen their relatives killed in front of them.”

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The Refugee Council’s research, based on Freedom of Information requests and Home office statistics, contradicts claims from the Home Secretary Priti Patel that only 30 per cent of those making the journey were ‘genuine asylum seekers’.

Britain's Immigration Minister Kevin Foster told the BBC they want to work with the French authorities to break up smuggling gangs, but Mr Warrick suggested this is not a permanent solution.

“People smugglers are not going to retire, they’re just going to put their prices up and people will continue to be desperate to try and get to safe places.”

He continued: “There is no safe way to apply for asylum in the UK until you get here, so we’re calling for establishing a safe route to apply for asylum”

He suggested setting up an office in France that would allow people to apply for asylum in the UK without crossing the channel.

Reading Borough Council previously pledged to provide homes and support for 10 refugee families from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country.

Around 25 families who fled Afghanistan are expected to permanently settle in Berkshire, with most in Reading, according to RRSG.

The charity said there are currently around 400 people who sought refuge from the crisis in Berkshire who will be settled somewhere in the UK.