Six dead after migrant boat capsizes in Channel as search continues for more passengers

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At least six people have died with others still missing after a migrant boat capsized in the English Channel.

Dozens of people were rescued in an operation involving French and British authorities after a boat struggled in the water on Saturday morning.

French authorities said around 50 people were rescued from the boat, with several brought off lifeboats on stretchers. Six people had been taken to hospital in Calais in a serious condition but and were later pronounced dead.

The search is still underway, with up to 10 migrants still believed to be missing.

Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, said the small boat incident in which six people died reinforced the need for joint patrols in the Channel.

She said: “Today’s tragedy underlines why we must stop the small boats to keep people safe and prevent loss of life in the Channel.

“These overcrowded and unseaworthy deathtraps should obviously be stopped by the French authorities from leaving the French coast in the first place.

“The time has come for joint patrols on the French coast and a cross-Channel security zone before any more lives are lost.”

The statement from France’s Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea said two British ships and several French vessels were involved in the operation.

“Notre Dame du Risban”, an SNSM lifeboat, enters the port of Calais following a rescue operation after a migrant boat trying to cross the Channel from France capsized.


The 37 people rescued by French resources are currently being cared for on land at the port of Calais, authorities said.

The British RNLI boat which rescued 10 shipwrecked people also had survivors of another operation on board. It is not yet clear if those on board were also migrants.

The RNLI boat will take the 10 shipwreck survivors it rescued to Dover.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman chaired a meeting with Border Force officials this morning and said her “thoughts and prayers” were with those affected by the deaths in the Channel.

In a statement, she said: “My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic loss of life in the Channel today.

“I have spoken with our Border Force teams this morning who have been supporting the French authorities in response to this incident.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “We are aware of an incident in the Channel. HM Coastguard are working on a co-ordinated response and further information will be provided in due course.”

Early on Saturday morning, information was received from a patrol boat that a migrant boat was sinking off Sangatte, the statement said.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution said a Dover-based volunteer lifeboat crew launched just before 4am to respond to the incident.

Rescued migrants sit on a French rescue ship after a migrant boat trying to cross the Channel from France capsized.


A volunteer on one of the rescue boats told Reuters how migrants were using shoes to bale water out of the sinking boat.

She told the news agency how “there were too many on the boat,” after her group saved 54 people.

An investigation has also been opened by the Boulogne prosecutor’s office.

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said the latest incident was an “appalling, deeply shocking tragedy”.

“We must stop these crossings and defeat the criminal people smugglers.

“There can be no more headline-chasing gimmicks or madcap schemes that just make everything worse,” he wrote on Twitter.

This comes just days after 41 migrants died after their ship sank close to Tunisia.

At least 50 people are thought to have drowned attempting to cross the Channel since 2018, while others have lost their lives attempting to board lorries and trains in France, or walk through the Channel Tunnel.

On Thursday, people were rescued from another sinking dinghy that had reached British waters. The RNLI said it pulled several people from the water but believed everyone was accounted for.

The previous day, French authorities reported six children suffering from hypothermia had been taken to hospital after their boat went down off the coast near Sangatte.

The International Organization of Migration said the shipwreck means over 1,800 people have died or gone missing in the central Mediterranean, the most active and dangerous migration route in the world.

The number of migrants crossing the British Channel over the last five-and-a-half years was said to surpass 100,000 on Thursday, as the number of small boat crossings hit a daily high for 2023.

Nearly 16,000 people have crossed the Channel in a small boat this year.

All 39 people moved on to the Bibby Stockholm have now been evacuated.

(PA Wire)

Yesterday the Home Office came under fire as all asylum seekers were ordered to move off the housing barge Bibby Stockholm as bacteria was found in its water system.

All 39 people were evacuated from the barge and will be temporarily placed back in hotels, with a date yet to be confirmed for the migrants to return to the floating accommodation.

The Home Office is facing mounting pressure over its “startling incompetence” following the discovery of Legionella bacteria.

Department officials are understood to have been told by Dorset Council on Wednesday evening about the discovery of initial results indicating that the bacteria was present, but the transfer of a further six migrants on to the barge still went ahead on Thursday.

Government sources said the UK Health Security Agency then told ministers on Thursday that Legionella had been found in the vessel’s water system and advised them that they needed to remove those six migrants.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis said the barge would not serve as a “solution” to the backlog even without the presence of the bacteria.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The primary thing that’s been revealed has been the startling incompetence of the Home Office itself… It’s really, really hard to understand how, at all layers, this could not be caught early”.

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