More than 30 migrants killed after the wreck of a ship off Calais

Migrants in an inflatable boat leave the shores of northern France to cross the English Channel, near Wimereux, France, on November 24, 2021.

© Gonzalo Fuentes, Reuters
Migrants in an inflatable boat leave the shores of northern France to cross the English Channel, near Wimereux, France, on November 24, 2021.

More than 30 migrants died after the boat in which they crossed the English Channel, from France to the United Kingdom, wrecked on Wednesday, November 24. French Prime Minister Jean Castex called what happened a “tragedy” while his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, announced an emergency meeting.

At least 31 people crossing the English Channel bound for the United Kingdom died this Wednesday, November 24, in a shipwreck near the northern coast of France, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told reporters.

According to the official, among the fatalities there are five women and a girl and two people could be rescued by the rescue teams that were present at the site of the wreck.

Local coastguards stated that they could not yet confirm the death toll and confirmed that they had found about 20 people in the water, of whom only two were aware.

The Channel Maritime Prefecture described the tragedy as the “worst accident” of its kind for migrants trying to reach the UK. In reaction, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair an emergency meeting this Wednesday, according to his spokesman.

For his part, the French Interior Minister traveled to the northern city of Calais. “Strong emotion at the tragedy of the many deaths due to the capsizing of a migrant boat in the English Channel,” Gérald Darmanin wrote in a tweet.

“The criminal nature of the smugglers who organize these crossings cannot be overstated,” the official added.

For his part, the French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, called what happened a “tragedy”. “I direct my thoughts to the many missing and injured, victims of criminal traffickers who exploit the despair and misery of immigrants,” he declared on Twitter.

Traffickers would have taken advantage of the good sea conditions to leave the coast of France

The nationalities of the victims and the exact circumstances of the accident have not been disclosed. However, two helicopters and three rescue boats were at the scene, according to local authorities.

The Dunkirk Prosecutor’s Office also indicated that an investigation had been opened for “aid in the illegal entry and stay in an organized gang” and “aggravated homicide”.

A fisherman, Nicolas Margolle, told the Reuters news agency that he had seen two small boats early Wednesday, one with people on board and the other empty. He added that another fisherman had called the rescue operation after seeing an empty boat and 15 people floating nearby, motionless.

Migration tension continues in Calais

The tragedy comes at a time of renewed migratory tension in Calais and its surrounding areas, after the peaks of 2015 and 2016. In the first ten months of this year, 24,655 people tried to cross the English Channel irregularly by sea. to reach the United Kingdom, when in all of 2020 there had been 9,551.

The British government agreed to pay France 62.7 million euros to increase security on its north coast, but says the situation remains “unacceptable”.

The English Channel is one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, despite its strong ocean currents. Overloaded boats often barely stay afloat, being left at the mercy of the waves.

With AFP, EFE and Reuters

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