A tragic incident unfolded Saturday morning in the English Channel when a boat carrying migrants bound for Britain capsized, resulting in the death of six individuals, according to French maritime officials. The search for the missing passengers is ongoing, while 55 individuals have been rescued.
The rescue operation involved four French ships, a helicopter, and two British vessels and was launched off the coast of Sangatte in northern France. Franck Dhersin, the local mayor, reported that the operation began around 6 am as multiple migrant boats attempted the crossing simultaneously. He noted that several of the boats were in serious distress, and unfortunately, some of the deceased were discovered near Sangatte.
The maritime prefecture confirmed the death toll and stated that search and rescue operations are still in progress. French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced that Junior Maritime Affairs Minister Herve Berville would be dispatched to Calais, near the site of the capsizing. Borne expressed her condolences to the victims on social media.
The British Coastguard also contributed to the rescue efforts, dispatching a lifeboat from Dover along with a coastguard rescue team and ambulance staff. Official figures released on Friday revealed that over 100,000 migrants had made the perilous and long journey across the English Channel in small boats from France to southeast England since Britain began publicly recording the arrivals in 2018.
Anne Thorel, a volunteer on one of the rescue boats, described the desperate attempts of the migrants to bail water out of their sinking vessel using their shoes. She noted that the boat was dangerously overloaded.
The French authorities have increased patrols and other deterrent measures after London agreed in March to contribute hundreds of millions of euros annually towards the effort. The crossing, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, has proven to be treacherous, with numerous capsizings and a significant number of refugees and migrants drowning over the past decade. The incident is a grim reminder of the dangers faced by migrants that attempt to cross the English Channel.