At least six people died when a refugee boat capsized in the English Channel. About 50 people were rescued, the French authorities said on Saturday. One person was flown to a hospital in a helicopter and pronounced dead. According to initial information from the authorities, five other rescued people were in poor condition. It was later announced that they, too, were pronounced dead. The public prosecutor’s office initiated investigations.
In the early morning, people tried to cross the English Channel by boat from France and get to Great Britain. A full-scale rescue operation was launched around 6 a.m. when dozens of boats tried to cross at the same time, local mayor Franck Dhersin said. “Several boats had serious difficulties.” Unfortunately, dead people have been recovered near the coastal town of Sangatte. According to authorities, a search and rescue operation was underway. The British coastguard said they were able to save all occupants when another boat went down.
Desperate attempts to scoop water out of the boat
The English Channel between France and Great Britain is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. The currents are strong. Therefore, a crossing with small boats is dangerous. Nevertheless, migrants keep trying to get illegally from France to Great Britain. Gangs of tugboats usually overload rickety inflatable boats so that they hardly stay afloat and run the risk of capsizing. “We rescued 54 people, including a woman,” said Anne Thorel, a volunteer who was on one of the lifeboats. She described the migrants’ desperate efforts to use their shoes to pump water out of their sinking boat. “There were too many of them on the boat.”
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced that Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs Herve Berville would travel to Calais to the site of the accident. “My thoughts are with the victims,” she wrote on the short message service X, formerly Twitter. British Home Secretary Suella Braverman said her thoughts and prayers are with the victims. British and French authorities would work together on the rescue operations.
The number of migrants who have crossed the English Channel since early 2018 topped 100,000 this week, according to UK government data. So far this year there are almost 16,000. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is trying to reduce the number of migrants coming to Great Britain with a restrictive asylum policy. His government recently even threatened life imprisonment for lawyers who help migrants falsify asylum applications. Sunak has made it one of his key goals to stop the boats – so far without success. The Conservatives had announced that Brexit would slow down migration. However, since then there has been no readmission agreement with the EU.