In recent years, this is the biggest tragedy associated with the attempt of migrants to reach the shores of Britain.
Thirty-one people, including five women and a little girl, died on Wednesday after their rubber boat capsized while crossing the English Channel from France to the UK.
The English Channel is one of the busiest shipping straits in the world, there are also strong currents here. Overloaded boats often barely stay afloat and become prey to a wave when migrants try to reach British shores.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said there were 34 people on board, of whom 31 died, two were rescued and one was missing. “There are two survivors… but their lives are in danger, they suffer from severe hypothermia,” he said.
According to Darmanin, the nationalities and identities of the migrants are unknown. He added that four traffickers suspected of involvement in the disaster have already been arrested.
French President Emmanuel Macron said that the European Union border agency (Frontex) should receive more financial resources to protect the EU’s external borders and prevent the arrival of more migrants on the northern shores of France.
He also called for an emergency meeting of European ministers to discuss the problem.
“France will not allow the English Channel to turn into a cemetery,” Macron said.
According to fishermen, more migrants than usual left the French Channel coast on Wednesday to take advantage of calm sea conditions, although the water was very cold.
Although French police are now preventing more illegal crossings of the English Channel than in previous years, they have only partially stopped the flow of migrants wishing to enter the UK. This has become one of the sources of tension between Paris and London.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “shocked and appalled” by the deaths.
“My thoughts and condolences are now dedicated to the victims and their families… but this disaster highlights how dangerous it is to cross the English Channel in this way,” Johnson said after presiding over an emergency cabinet meeting.
According to a representative of the local maritime prefecture, before the disaster on Wednesday this year, 14 people drowned while trying to reach the UK. In 2020, a total of seven people were killed and two were missing, and in 2019, four people were killed.
Early on Wednesday morning, Reuters journalists in France saw a group of more than 40 migrants heading to the UK by boat. Later, members of the same group were spotted by Reuters reporters arriving on the British coast.