A rescue and recovery operation is underway in the English Channel by air and sea as French and British authorities search for anyone still in the water after an inflatable dinghy overcrowded with migrants that included pregnant women and children capsized in the rough waters. French authorities said 34 people were believed to have been on before it sank and 31 bodies have been recovered.
Two survivors are in intensive care while police have arrested four people suspected of being linked to the drownings. The International Organisation for Migration said it was the biggest single loss of life in the Channel since it began collecting data in 2014.
The French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said that the dead included five women and a girl. He told an impromptu news conference in Calais that the boat that sank had been “very frail”, and compared it to “a pool you blow up in your garden”.
💔31 migrants dead in English Channel
This was foreseeable. Boris Johnson /Priti Patel can shove ‘thoughts & sympathies’ down the mouths they’ve used to demonise & dehumanise migrants
Criminal trafficking gangs are NOT the sole problem.Make it safer for those exploited. Help. pic.twitter.com/LHcOFAJhN4
— Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu (@SholaMos1) November 24, 2021
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled” by the tragedy. He then suggested the French government had not always approached the problem of the crossings “in a way we think the situation deserves”. People trafficking gangs were “literally getting away with murder”, he said. However, later France’s President Emmanuel Macron said Britain needed to stop politicizing the issue for domestic gain.
Au moins cinq migrants sont décédés aujourd'hui dans le naufrage de leur embarcation dans la Manche, au large de Calais, alors qu'ils tentaient de gagner la Grande-Bretagne #AFP pic.twitter.com/jgz5gLjNdV
— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) November 24, 2021
The latest deaths follow others reported but unverified in the Channel in recent weeks, amid a record number of people attempting the crossing. On November 11th, a total of 1,185 people arrived in England by boat, the most in a single day, according to a report in The Guardian. Until now, the largest loss of life in the Channel from a single boat came in October last year when a Kurdish-Iranian family of five died after the boat they were traveling in sank.
Britain is determined to smash the business model of people smugglers after the death of 27 migrants who tried to cross the English Channel, Britain's Immigration Minister Kevin Foster said https://t.co/xeSwPngzGT
— Reuters (@Reuters) November 25, 2021