Macron announced that his government would hold a crisis meeting along with PM Jean Castex on Thursday morning.
The latest reports said least 27 refugees and migrants died trying to cross the Channel from France to England when their boat sank off the northern port of Calais. The tragedy is the deadliest single disaster on the intensively-used migrant route.
Seventeen men, seven women and three minors died when the boat sank off the northern coast of France on Wednesday, according to public prosecutors in Lille.
Two of the passengers in the boat were pulled from the water alive.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled and shocked” by the incident but suggested efforts by the French to stop the crossings “haven’t been enough”.
Johnson said the UK was offering to send officers “to help patrol the beaches concerned, on the launching grounds for these boats.”
“That’s something I hope will be acceptable now in the view of what has happened,” he said.
Macron however called for reinforcements from the EU’s external border management force Frontex and a crisis meeting of EU leaders.
The French interior ministry said in a statement that French patrol vessels found corpses and people unconscious in the water after a fisherman sounded the alarm about the accident.
Three helicopters and three boats took part in the search, local authorities said. French prosecutors have opened a manslaughter probe.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who is heading to the scene, wrote on Twitter that “many people” had died in the incident, adding that “the criminal nature of the smugglers who organise these crossings cannot be condemned enough.”
Later on Wednesday he announced the arrest of four suspected human traffickers linked to the fateful crossing.
“The traffickers are primarily responsible for this situation,” he said.
“It is an appalling situation for France, for Europe and for humanity to se these people perish at sea because of people smugglers,” Darmanin told a press conference on Wednesday evenng.
“The disaster in the Channel is a tragedy,” added Prime Minister Jean Castex.
“My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and misery,” he wrote on Twitter.
The disaster, the worst single loss of life recorded in recent times from migrant crossings in the Channel, comes as tensions grow between London and Paris over the record numbers of people crossing.
Britain has urged tougher action from France to stop migrants making the voyage.
Growing post-Brexit tensions
According to the French authorities, 31,500 people attempted to leave for Britain since the start of the year and 7,800 people have been rescued at sea, figures which doubled since August.
Seven people have been confirmed dead or are still missing feared drowned after various incidents this year.
In Britain, the ruling right-wing Conservative party of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is coming under intense pressure, including from its own supporters, to reduce the numbers crossing.
- France to spend €11m on new tech to stop migrant Channel crossings
- France tells the UK to stop ‘giving lessons’ on migrants
- Decathlon stops canoe sales in northern France to cut migrant crossings
French police said this week they detained 15 suspected members of an international migrant smuggling syndicate that helped people illegally cross the Channel to Britain.
The network of Iraqi Kurds, Romanians, Pakistanis and Vietnamese helped a minimum of 250 people per month cross to England, using small boats that transport up to 60 migrants at a time.
Passage to England would cost a migrant €6,000 and the smugglers racked up some €3 million in total profits.
According to British authorities, more than 25,000 people have now arrived illegally so far this year, already triple the figure recorded in 2020.
The issue has added to growing post-Brexit tensions between Britain and France, with a row on fishing rights also still unresolved.