LEICESTER, United Kingdom – After a man died trying to make it to England crossing the English Channel, the head of the Jesuit Refugee Service UK said the government must improve its asylum system to prevent further tragedies.

The unidentified man was taken from a sinking boat containing around 40 people off the French coast. He later suffered cardiac arrest and died in a hospital in Calais.

“This is terrible news. We know very little about the man who lost his life but we know he is someone’s son, brother, father, friend or neighbor. We pray for all who loved him and who will grieve for him,” said Sarah Teather, the director of JRS UK.

The tragedy happened a day after over 100 people were rescued from small boats trying to make the channel crossing. The UK’s border force says more than 8,000 people made the crossing in 2020; that number has already been surpassed this year.

Last month, the government proposed making it a criminal offense to “knowingly” arriving in the UK without permission in a bid to stop asylum seekers from arriving by crossing the Channel from France.

Human rights advocates have claimed the proposals would create a two-tier asylum system, and deny a fair assessment of asylum claims from those arriving by boat.

“The desperation of people making this treacherous journey is an indictment of our failure to provide safe means of sanctuary to those fleeing for their lives,” Teather said in a statement.

She added the death of the migrant off the coast of France “is yet another ghastly reminder that the government has no intention of creating a just and person-centered asylum system,” and that the new government proposals “will do nothing but force more people into ever more perilous situations like these.”

“This tragic and avoidable loss of life must never be allowed to happen again. We urgently need a human-centered approach to those seeking sanctuary, with safe and compassionate routes to safety,” she said.

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome