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At least 27 migrants have died in what has been described as the ‘deadliest ever’ incident on the Channel crossing.
The migrants, who had been headed for the UK, died after their inflatable dinghy sank today (Wednesday, November 24), shortly after 2.00pm. Police have stated that 27 people lost their lives, as reported by the AFP news agency, with a further 26 people having been rescued.
French and British authorities are currently carrying out a rescue operation in the Channel by both air and sea, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to hold a Cobra meeting today in response to the tragedy.
As reported by the Mail Online, it’s believed today’s death rate marks the highest recorded single-day toll, with the previous record thought to be a family of five who died in the crossing back in October 2020.
French prime minister Jean Castex has described the incident as a ‘tragedy’, stating that those who lost their lives had been victims of ‘criminal smugglers’.
Fishermen have said that more migrants than usual have left the northern shores of France due to the current calm sea conditions, despite the water being dangerously cold.
It’s understood that one fisherman contacted rescue services after spotting an empty dinghy and people floating in the water nearby, as reported by Reuters.
ITN Channel 4 News journalist Stuart Webb tweeted pictures of the sort of inflatable boats used by migrants, writing:
These inflatables aren’t used by the leisure industry or commercially – they’re only used by people smugglers & they’re inherently dangerous – & now there’s reports of loss of life among migrants crossing the Channel today…
Responding to the news of the sinking, Kent Refugee Action Network tweeted:
This is the worst news. Our hearts go out to the victims, and to their friends and families. These deaths were avoidable and they shame us all.
These fatalities follow a number of other migrant deaths in the Channel crossing in recent weeks, with a record number of people trying to cross into the UK. On November 11 alone, as per The Independent, 1,185 people arrived in England by boat, the highest number ever recorded in a single day.
In response to the incident, Dunkirk prosecutors have now opened up a criminal investigation for ‘manslaughter’ and ‘assistance with illegal immigration in an organised gang’.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677
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