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Migrant dead and another in a critical condition after boat sinks in Channel

PA News

A migrant has died while another is in a critical condition after a boat sank in the English Channel, the French national coastguard has said.

The coastguard was alerted to a boat with more than 60 passengers thought to be migrants on board in difficulty around 8km (five miles) off the northern French coast on Thursday night.

A rescue ship arrived in under 30 minutes and found one of the boat’s tubes was deflated and people in the water, the agency said.

The first passengers were rescued at about 1.15am local time (12.15am GMT), with 66 people taken to safety in two other recovery vessels an hour later.

It is not a safe route, it is not a safe crossing. People shouldn’t need to do that
Government minister Andrew Griffith

Two of the rescued migrants were found unconscious, with one in a life-threatening condition evacuated by helicopter to a Calais hospital.

The other could not be resuscitated.

Their fellow passengers were taken to Calais for treatment while searches in the Channel continue.

The UK Coastguard said it had sent a helicopter to assist French authorities who were co-ordinating the operation.

Government minister Andrew Griffith said the confirmation of another migrant death in the English Channel showed why the crossing was “not a safe route” and why Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was “cracking down on the terrible trade of people traffickers”.

Reacting to the incident on Sky News, Mr Griffith said: “Well, we are just hearing it now, but all of these are tragic stories.

“It shows once again the importance of cracking down on the terrible trade of people traffickers in the Channel.

“It is not a safe route, it is not a safe crossing. People shouldn’t need to do that.

“It is why it is really important that the Government is taking action through things like the Illegal Migration Bill (sic), through the proposals around Rwanda that we debated in Parliament earlier this year, to absolutely remove the incentive, break the economic model of people smugglers, so that we can stop this terrible trade.”

A view of small boats and engines used to cross the Channel by people thought to be migrants at a warehouse facility in Dover (PA)
A view of small boats and engines used to cross the Channel by people thought to be migrants at a warehouse facility in Dover (PA)

Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said there “needs to be far more done to break up” the human trafficking gangs that are facilitating migrant boat crossings.

She told Sky News: “It is obviously absolutely awful, heartbreaking news.

“One can barely imagine what it must have been like in the middle of the night with freezing cold water and the terror and fear for people on that vessel.

“And I think yet again this underlines really that the criminal people-smuggling gangs are putting individuals in absolutely appalling danger.

“They are profiting from this really disgracefully, and there needs to be far more done to break up those criminal people smuggling gangs.

“But above all, I think this morning, we would all be really thinking about that person who has died and want to pass on our sympathy to their family.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The death is the latest in a series of tragic crossing attempts.

French authorities confirmed two people had died in a similar incident off the coast of France last month.

Two others died after trying to cross the Channel in separate incidents in August and November 2021, while an independent inquiry was launched last month after 27 people died when after an inflatable boat capsized, also in November 2021.

More than 29,000 migrants have arrived in the UK this year after crossing the Channel. This is the second highest annual total to date since records began in 2018.

Meanwhile, the Government continues to struggle with finalising an agreement to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Enver Solomon, chief executive officer of the Refugee Council, said: “This is yet another terrible and avoidable tragedy. Our thoughts are with the victim, the survivors and their loved ones.

“These appalling deaths are becoming too common and there is an urgent need to put in place safe routes so people don’t have to take dangerous journeys across the world’s busiest shipping lane.

“Instead, the Government is pushing ahead with its unworkable and unprincipled Rwanda plan as well as shutting down existing safe ways to get to the UK.

“People flee persecution and violence out of desperation, to find safety and protect their families. The Government must take action now and respond in a compassionate way to prevent future tragedies and protect human life.”

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