In France, a 16-year-old Sudanese boy has drowned in the English Channel while trying to reach the UK.
According to reports, French authorities announced the death after his body was washed up on a beach on Wednesday morning.
However, Priti Patel blamed the boy’s death on “criminal gangs” but humanitarian groups said the government must offer safe routes to seek asylum.
The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, said the government’s response to rising Channel crossings had been “lacking in compassion and competence”.
“Ministers urgently need to step up work with international partners to find a humanitarian solution to this crisis, which is costing lives,” he added.
Marlène Schiappa, France’s citizenship minister, said the boy – who was carrying identification papers – had disappeared at sea overnight and was found dead on Sangatte beach.
“This unbearable tragedy moves us even more with [French interior minister] Gérald Darmanin against smugglers who take advantage of the distress of human beings,” she wrote on Twitter.
The boy is one of several migrants to have died while attempting to reach the UK in recent years.
United Nations figures show that more than 19,500 migrants have lost their lives attempting to reach Europe across the Mediterranean Sea since 2014, but the death toll for the English Channel is not formally recorded.
Priti Patel called the boy’s death an “upsetting and tragic loss of a young life” as talks continued with France aiming to stop small boats from leaving its coastline.
The home secretary added: “This horrendous incident serves as a brutal reminder of the abhorrent criminal gangs and people smugglers who exploit vulnerable people. Working together we are determined to stop them.”
It came a day after the Border Force started detaining unaccompanied child asylum seekers in a “processing centre” because Kent council had run out of capacity.
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said the boy was “not the first person to have lost his life attempting to reach safety in the UK from France”.
He added: “We continue, therefore, to demand that the governments on both sides of these waters share their asylum responsibilities and implore them in doing so to focus on relieving the desperate plight of people in need of support, safety and, in many cases, reunion with their family.”
Both Sudan and South Sudan, which was plunged into a bloody civil war after gaining independence in 2011, are listed as “countries of concern” by the Foreign Office.
An annual report said that in South Sudan, a peace agreement had reduced fighting but that “scorched earth” tactics including the rape of men, women and children were being used against civilians, while civil and political rights were being undermined by state security.
In Sudan, the government said peaceful protesters calling for political change had been met with deadly violence and mass detention, as well as worsening restrictions on freedom of expression and belief.
The boy’s death came days after a suspected vigilante attacked a migrant minutes after a small boat reached a Kent beach on Sunday.
The young man in his 20s was assaulted by someone reportedly watching the small boat arrive at the village of Kingsdown.
Footage of migrants arriving at that location was shared on far-right social media networks on the day.