boat with migrants has been capsized off the coast of Calais in France. In addition, 31 people were killed, says French Interior Minister Darmanin, who is on the scene. Among the victims are five women and a young girl. Two people have been saved.
According to Darmanin, four people smugglers have been arrested who have been involved in the fatal crossing.
The accident happened around 2pm. According to the AFP news agency, a fisherman saw fifteen bodies floating in the water and raised the alarm. The boat was almost certainly on its way to the United Kingdom. Several rescue ships are involved in the rescue.
A BBC journalist reports that today alone 25 boats have made an attempt to cross the Channel.
These images show one of the boats that left this morning from the French coast. It is still unclear if this boat was capsized on the way:
It is still unclear how many people were on the boat. The mayor of the French coastal municipality of Teteghem says there were more than 50 migrants on board.
Record number of crossings
For years, groups of migrants have been trying to make the crossing to England from Calais. Last summer it was particularly busy on the itinerary, partly due to the calm sea. Not before, as many migrants were able to reach the British coast as this year: around 22,000 people were able to cross the Channel, more than three times more than in the whole of 2020. 853 migrants were able to make the crossing in one day at the beginning of this month.
Both the French and British Coast Guard have recently stepped up the deployment in the Channel. France regularly clears illegal camps near Calais. Last week, sports shop Decathlon announced that it no longer sells canoes in the region, because the boats are too often used to cross the strait.
The crossing is not without risk, among other things because it is a busy route for large cargo ships. Reuters news agency reports that fourteen migrants were already killed in their attempt to reach the United Kingdom this year. Last year, six fatalities were counted, four in 2019.
Last summer, the British government said that France did too little to stop the migrant boats. After consultation, the two countries decided to set up a detective team together to roll up smuggling gangs. London also pledged more than 62 million euros to France to strengthen the Coast Guard.
British Prime Minister Johnson says todays “terrible incident” shows that more needs to be done to counter human smuggling. “We must, of course, work with our French and European partners.”