Children among dead after migrants’ boat capsizes in English Channel

This file photo of an aerial shot of migrants in a dinghy illegally crossing the English Channel was taken on September 11, 2020.
This file photo of an aerial shot of migrants in a dinghy illegally crossing the English Channel was taken on September 11, 2020. AFP - SAMEER AL-DOUMY

Four people including two children died on Tuesday in the Channel between France and Britain after their small boat sank, making it the most deadly day for migrants trying to cross the narrow waterway. 


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One man drowned, while a woman and two children aged five and eight died after being pulled from the water along with 14 other people, according to the local authority of the Nord department.

Some of those rescued, including the two children, went into cardiac arrest, while others suffered hypothermia.

Authorities in northern France said around 6:00 pm (1700 GMT) that those rescued had been sent to hospitals in Calais and Dunkirk, with one man gravely ill but no longer in danger of dying.

The group's small fishing boat capsized in the Channel at about 9:30 am in stormy conditions.

 A passing English vessel reported that the vessel was in trouble, triggering a large search and rescue operation involving six boats with three aircraft.

There were believed to have been about 20 migrants on board -- apparently from Iran, according to French authorities -- meaning more may still be missing.

No further people from the boat were found before the search was called off as night fell, French authorities said.

Border police are now investigating the incident.

Dangerous crossing

British Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a tweet she was "truly saddened" by the deaths and that Britain has offered its support to France's investigation.

"The tragic news highlights the dangers that come with crossing the channel and I will do everything I can to stop callous criminals exploiting vulnerable people," she added.

A growing number of migrants have tried to reach Britain across the perilous and busy shipping lane in recent months, with four deaths recorded in 2019 and now seven so far this year.

Two men's bodies have been found on the beach at Sangatte on the outskirts of Calais since August, while another was found in the harbour at the Channel port in May.

In September, French authorities said they had intercepted over 1,300 people trying to reach the UK, including a handful who had attempted to swim the 30-odd kilometres (18.6 miles) across the Channel.

Around 6,200 had attempted the crossing by the end of August, with inflatable boats, paddleboards, kayaks or even lifejackets to keep them afloat.

Northern France has long been a magnet for people seeking to smuggle themselves to Britain in small boats or in one of the tens of thousands of trucks and cars that cross over daily on ferries and trains.

The issue has been a source of tension, with Britain accusing France of not doing enough to stop the crossings.

'Lives on the line'

Migrants' eagerness to reach Britain is down to "atrocious conditions in France," said Claire Millot of the Salam migrant support organisation.

"They can't claim asylum in France, because most have been registered in other European countries. It's easier to work off the books in England, to find somewhere to live," Millot said.

"They're putting their lives on the line" to cross the Channel, she added.

NGO Save the Children appealed to the French and British governments to provide "safe and legal routes for desperate families fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty".

The Channel "must not become a graveyard for children," it added.


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