Four Dead After Migrant Boat Sinks in English Channel
(Bloomberg) -- Two children aged 5 and 8 are among four people who died Tuesday after a boat carrying migrants toward the U.K. sank off the coast of France.
More than a dozen people have been rescued from the water, and a major search and rescue operation was ongoing Tuesday night to find any others who may have been on board.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his thoughts were with the victims’ loved ones.
“We have offered the French authorities every support as they investigate this terrible incident and will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs who prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys,” he said in a statement.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Twitter she was “truly saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life”.
French authorities confirmed the four deaths after a vessel was seen in difficulty near Dunkirk on Tuesday morning, amid stormy conditions.
Johnson has long faced pressure to stem the flow of small boats crossing the English Channel from France, and pledged in August to work with the French government to tackle the “cruel and criminal gangs” responsible.
Under the European Union’s Dublin Convention, refugees -- many if not most of whom are fleeing conflict or poverty in the Middle East -- are supposed to seek asylum in the first safe nation they enter. But many don’t, instead traveling on to other European countries. Thousands are camped in Calais at various times, seeking to reach the U.K. from countries including Syria and Iraq.
Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Commons home affairs committee, said in an emailed statement: “The thought of children ending up in the cold waves is terrible. These boats are incredibly dangerous. The criminal gangs who organize journeys in these precarious dinghies are profiting from putting lives at risk and from other people’s desperation.”
Her committee is conducting an inquiry into Channel crossings and what can be done to prevent more deaths.
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