More than 20 dead after sinking of a migrant boat in the English Channel, according to French police
More than 20 migrants died on Wednesday crossing the Channel from France to England when their boat sank off the northern port of Calais, authorities said, the deadliest disaster on the busy route.
The French Interior Ministry said in a statement that French patrol boats found corpses and unconscious people in the water after a fisherman sounded the alarm over the crash. Police then said in a statement that “more than 20” people had died.
Three helicopters and three boats were deployed to help with the search, local authorities said.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who goes to the scene, wrote on Twitter that “many people” had died in the incident, adding that “the criminal nature of the smugglers who organize these crossings cannot be condemned enough “.
“The catastrophe 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 loss of life in recent times during migrant crossings in the English Channel, comes as tensions rise between London and Paris over the record number of people crossing.
Britain called on France to take tougher measures to prevent migrants from making the trip.
Growing tensions after Brexit
According to French authorities, 31,500 people have tried to leave for Britain since the start of the year, and 7,800 people have been rescued at sea, figures which have doubled since August.
Seven people have been confirmed dead or still missing and fear drowning after various incidents this year.
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s right-wing Conservative Party is under intense pressure, including from its own supporters, to reduce the number of crossings.
French police said this week they detained 15 suspected members of an international migrant smuggling union that has helped people illegally cross the Channel to Britain.
The network of Iraqi Kurds, Romanians, Pakistanis and Vietnamese have helped a minimum of 250 people per month cross to England, using small boats that carry up to 60 migrants at a time.
The passage to England would cost a migrant € 6,000 ($ 6,800) and the smugglers racked up some € 3 million ($ 3.4 million) in total profits.
According to British authorities, more than 25,000 people have now arrived illegally this year, already triple the figure recorded in 2020.
The problem has been added to growing post-Brexit tensions between Britain and France, with a dispute over fishing rights still unresolved.