But this harrowing episode is also a lethal symbol of political failure. In the wake of the disaster, President Macron of France grandly declared, “I will not allow the Channel to become a graveyard,” but that is exactly what Europe’s rulers have done.
There has been no willingness to uphold border controls, no determination to smash the smuggling gangs. Instead, cowardice and inertia have allowed anarchy to flourish.
Our own Government bears a heavy responsibility for the chaos. Long on tough rhetoric, but short on effective action, ministers have done little to deter the crossings.
On the contrary, their enfeebled approach has facilitated this dangerous business.
The French Government is even worse, despite receiving £54million from London to bolster its northern frontier.
Institutional paralysis is epitomised by the remarkable images of flimsy dinghies setting sail from beaches near Calais in full view of the police… who do nothing.
Gallic authorities bleat about limited resources to cover a long coastline, but then reject British offers of help with intelligence and police reinforcements.
In the same vein, the French interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, wails that Britain’s comparatively unregulated economy is a magnet for illegal migrants, yet his own country’s illegal population is estimated to be over 900,000.
Just as bad is the EU, whose goal of political integration drives the destruction of borders and national identities.
Across much of the media and our political culture, laxity is portrayed as a form of compassion, even though it leads to disasters like last week’s tragedy.
On another level, the metropolitan progressive elite’s attachment to mass immigration is so deep that any attempt to curb numbers is usually hailed as xenophobic and damaging to the economy.
With epic hypocrisy, British and EU politicians moan about Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus, “weaponising” immigration in Eastern Europe to destabilise the continent, yet they themselves have deliberately embraced vast annual influxes of newcomers through a gigantic, unprecedented experiment in social and cultural engineering.
There will be far more of this if the progressives get their way in the wake of last Wednesday’s incident.
All too predictably, the solution advocated by an alliance of pressure groups, Left-wing MPs, churches and policymakers is to make transit across the Channel much easier.
“An ambitious expansion of safe routes is urgently needed,” argues the Refugee Council. Again, the introduction of policy is painted as both practical and humane, but it is nothing of the sort.
An even more porous border would simply encourage a huge increase in migration, thereby fuelling further chaos, trafficking and deaths. Such a measure would also be completely unsustainable.
Our nation is already one of the most densely populated in the world, with a civic infrastructure that can scarcely cope with current demand.Where would the Refugee Council draw the line? Would anyone who wants to live in Britain be given the right to do so?
A country that does not have the democratic, independent right to decide who settles within its boundaries is not a country at all, just a landmass inhabited by disparate groups.
It would be far better for the Government to live up to its promise to “take back control”.
That means using the Border Force as a protector rather than a taxi service, building asylum processing centres both here and overseas, ending the appeals “merrygo-round” through the courts, abolishing legal aid for migrants and cracking down on the black market economy.
Such a policy should also involve greater co-operation with France and the EU.
Even if Macron has now decided to indulge in his arrogant, anti- British, quasi-Napoleonic routine, other, more sensible French voices will want to engage in this task.
Ultimately, it is in the interests of governments on both sides of the Channel to end this evil trade in human cargo.