English Channel: at least 27 reported dead after migrant boat capsizes while attempting to reach the UK

Migrants are brought to shore after a boat capsized in the English Channel while attempting to reach the UK. (Credit: Getty)Migrants are brought to shore after a boat capsized in the English Channel while attempting to reach the UK. (Credit: Getty)
Migrants are brought to shore after a boat capsized in the English Channel while attempting to reach the UK. (Credit: Getty) | AFP via Getty Images

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At least 27 people have died following an attempt to enter the UK by crossing the English Channel

Dozens of people have been reported dead after a boat carrying migrants across the English Channel to the UK capsized.

The alarm was sounded by a nearby fishing boat earlier today (24 November), after people were spotted floating in the sea near the coast in France.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • A boat set off from the French coast early on Wednesday morning
  • It was attempting to cross the English Channel to transport migrants to the UK
  • Shortly after setting off, a fishing boat raised the alarm to emergency services after several people were seen floating  in the sea near the coast 
  • It has been confirmed by French interior minister Gerald Darmanin that several people died during the attempted crossing after apparently capsizing, with Jean-Marc Puissesseau, chairman and president of the ports of Calais and Boulogne, confirming that at least 27 people had died
  • A rescue in still underway for any remaining survivors of the incident

What happened in the English Channel?

A boat carrying migrants attempting to reach the UK appeared to have capsized in the English Channel.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed that there had been several deaths earlier in the day.

Speaking to BBC News, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, chairman and president of the ports of Calais and Boulogne, confirmed that at least 27 people had died.

He said: “What I have heard is that there are 27 people who have died, and about five or six who have been found.”

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It has now been confirmed that 31 people have been reported as dead.

It is believed that among those dead include five woman and a young girl, with around 34 people on the boat when it set off.

Darmanin added that the boat attempting to transport those on board was “very frail” and was like “a pool you blow up in your garden.”

Several people were brought to the UK shore at Dover in small boats on the same day by immigration officials.

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French and British authorities worked together to conduct a search for any remaining missing people.

At least 25,700 people have attempted to make the journey across the English Channel this year, with hope of reaching the UK shore.

The Channel waters are prone to strong currents and low temperatures, particularly in the winter months.

What has been the reaction to the tragedy?

French Prime Minister Jean Castex described the situation as a “tragedy”, adding: “My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and injury.”

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke echoed Castex’s sentiments.

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She said: “This is an absolute tragedy. It underlines why saving lives at sea starts by stopping the boats entering the water in the first place.

“As winter is approaching the seas will get rougher, the water colder, the risk of even more lives tragically being lost greater.

“That’s why stopping these dangerous crossings is the humanitarian and right thing to do.”

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said: “My thoughts are with the families of all of those who have tragically lost their lives in French waters today.

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“It serves as the starkest possible reminder of the dangers of these Channel crossings organised by ruthless criminal gangs.

“It is why this Government’s New Plan for Immigration will overhaul our broken asylum system and address many of the long-standing pull factors encouraging migrants to make the perilous journey from France to the United Kingdom.”

Darmanin later confirmed that four arrests had been made in connection with the incident.

Speaking to Sky News through a translator, he said: “1,500 people have been arrested since the start of January, and four of them today.

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“We suspect that they were directly linked to this particular crossing”.

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