Six dead after ‘migrant boat’ capsizes crossing from France to UK

Authorities say dozens rescued after boat carrying migrants heading to Britain sank in the Channel early Saturday.

Six people have died after a boat carrying migrants heading to Britain sank in the English Channel, French maritime officials said, as a search continued to find those still missing.

A spokesperson from the French coastal authority Premar said on Saturday that between five and 10 passengers were still missing, while 55 had been rescued.

Four French ships and a helicopter plus two British vessels were involved in a rescue effort off Sangatte in northern France, authorities said, adding that some survivors were rescued by the British vessels.

Local mayor Franck Dhersin said a vast rescue operation was launched around 6am (04:00 GMT) as dozens of migrant boats tried to make the crossing at the same time.

“Several of the boats were facing serious difficulties,” he told the Reuters news agency. “Near [the coastal town of] Sangatte they unfortunately found dead bodies.”

The maritime prefecture confirmed that there had been at least six deaths and said search and rescue operations were ongoing.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Junior Maritime Affairs Minister Herve Berville would head to Calais, near where one of the migrant boats capsized.

“This morning, a migrant boat capsized off Calais,” French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on social media. “My thoughts are with the victims.”

Britain’s coastguard said it had sent a lifeboat from Dover to assist with the rescue, along with a coastguard rescue team and ambulance staff.

More than 100,000 migrants have crossed the English Channel on small boats from France to southeast England since Britain began publicly recording the arrivals in 2018, official figures revealed on Friday.

Human traffickers typically overload rickety dinghies, leaving them barely afloat and at risk of being lashed by the waves as they try to reach British shores.

“We saved 54 people, including one woman,” said Anne Thorel, a volunteer who was on one of the rescue boats, describing the migrants’ frantic efforts to bail water out of their sinking vessel using their shoes.

“There were too many of them on the [migrant] boat,” she told Reuters by phone as she returned to the shore.

French authorities have stepped up patrols and other deterrent measures after London agreed in March to send Paris hundreds of millions of euros annually towards the effort.

The route across one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes has repeatedly proved perilous, with several capsizings and scores of refugees and migrants drowning in the waters over the last decade.

Five migrants died at sea and four went missing while trying to cross over to Britain from France last year.

In November 2021, 27 migrants died in a boat capsizal in the English Channel.

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