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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Alamy Stock Photo A stock image of an RNLI lifeboat boat near Dover.
UK migrant crisis

Six people dead after migrant boat capsizes in English Channel

A patrol boat reported that a migrant boat was sinking near Sangatte on the French coast.

LAST UPDATE | Aug 12th 2023, 3:02 PM

AT LEAST SIX people have died and more than 50 have been rescued after a boat carrying migrants sank in the English Channel.

Two British ships and several French vessels have been involved in a search and rescue operation, France’s Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea said.

Information was received from a patrol boat early today that a migrant boat was sinking off Sangatte, according to a statement.

Six people were recovered in a serious condition, one of whom was then taken by helicopter to Calais hospital and declared dead, the prefecture said.

An updated statement said the other five, who were taken in by boat, had also died.

Two people may still be missing at sea, French authorities have said.

Around 65 people boarded the vessel that got into difficulty off the coast of Sangatte, according to the accounts of survivors.

At least 22 people were dropped off at Dover by UK crews while 36 were taken to the port of Calais on a French boat, France’s Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea said.

A large-scale search and rescue operation involving two French aircraft, numerous boats and merchant vessels, the UK Coastguard and a British chartered ship continues.

A dozen people were rescued by British means, including by a Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) crew, which was launched shortly before 4am.

Those on board were transferred to Dover with survivors from another RNLI operation also on the boat, the statement said.

According to the prefecture, at least 37 people were also collected by French boats and three by a British chartered ship.

The five deceased people are being taken to the port in Calais.

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she had chaired a meeting with Border Force officials later on Saturday morning.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We are aware of an incident in the Channel. HM Coastguard are working on a coordinated response and further information will be provided in due course.”

Rescue teams from Folkestone and Langdon Bay along with paramedics from South East Coast Ambulance have also been sent to respond, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said.

Rescue operation

A French Navy maritime surveillance aircraft has now been mobilised, along with a helicopter and a number of vessels as the rescue operation continues.

An investigation has also been opened by the Boulogne prosecutor’s office.

It comes after 755 people crossed the English Channel in small boats on Thursday, the highest daily number so far this year, confirming the total since 2018 has passed 100,000.

Some 343 people in six boats were detected crossing the Channel on Friday, according to the British Home Office figures.

It means more than 1,000 made the journey over two days and takes the provisional total for the year so far to more than 16,000.

Thursday’s figures were recorded as another major search and rescue operation was launched after 17 migrants went overboard and were pulled from the water.

The Home Office said they were all taken ashore for medical checks.

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said the latest incident was an “appalling, deeply shocking tragedy”.

“We must stop these crossings and defeat the criminal people smugglers.

“There can be no more headline-chasing gimmicks or madcap schemes that just make everything worse,” he wrote on Twitter.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the incident “underscores the need for meaningful action” to reduce dangerous crossings, and urged the Government to focus on creating an “orderly and humane asylum system”.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life in today’s sinking of a boat in the English Channel. Our hearts go out to the victims, survivors, and their loved ones. We also thank the rescuers who helped save many lives under harrowing circumstances,” he said.

He accused the Government of “focusing on passing expensive and unworkable legislation and shutting down existing safe ways to get to the UK”, adding: “There are constructive alternatives we have set out that would create an orderly and humane asylum system.”

Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, said the fatal incident reinforced the need for joint patrols in the Channel.

She told the PA news agency: “Today’s tragedy underlines why we must stop the small boats to keep people safe and prevent loss of life in the Channel.

“These overcrowded and unseaworthy deathtraps should obviously be stopped by the French authorities from leaving the French coast in the first place.

“The time has come for joint patrols on the French coast and a cross-Channel security zone before any more lives are lost.”

Press Association