So sad! Dozens of refugees, migrants have died as boat sinks in English Channel
Senior French officials say at least 31 people have died after their boat sank, as rescue operations continue off the coast of France. At least 31 refugees and migrants have died seeking to cross the English Channel from France to England when their dinghy sank off the northern coast of Calais.
A joint French-British operation to search for survivors was under way on Wednesday evening. At least three boats and three helicopters were deployed to take part in the search, local authorities said.
The United Nations migration agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) called the incident the largest single loss of life in the Channel since it started collecting data in 2014.
More people left France’s northern shores than usual to take advantage of calm sea conditions on Wednesday, although the water was bitterly cold, the Reuters news agency reported, citing fishermen. One fisherman called the rescue services after seeing an empty dinghy and people floating motionless nearby.
“My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and misery,” he wrote in a tweet.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced that at least 31 people had died and said his country would not let the Channel become a cemetery.
French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin said five women and a girl were among the 31 dead. He said two people had been rescued.
Darmanin added the French police had arrested four people suspected of being linked to the drowning which he called “the biggest [migrant] tragedy that we have seen”.