At least 27 dead after migrant boat sinks during bid to reach British shores

At least two dozen people died trying to reach British shores on Wednesday after a dinghy carrying migrants capsized while crossing the Channel from France to the U.K., local officials said.

Speaking on French television on Wednesday, Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart said at least 27 people had been found dead in the water.

Earlier, Franck Dhersin, mayor of Téteghem, which is near Dunkirk, and vice president of transport for the northern France region, said that at least 24 people had died, while 26 others had been rescued.

In a tweet, Dhersin said that the boat was believed to have had more than 50 migrants on board.

“Lots of corpses in the water,” he wrote, calling the incident “a new tragedy.”

In a separate tweet, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said there was “strong emotion in the face of the tragedy of numerous deaths due to the capsizing of a migrant boat in the English Channel.”

He added that enough could not be said “about the criminal nature of the smugglers who organize these crossings.”

Migrants are helped ashore from a Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboat at a beach in Dungeness, on the southeast coast of England, on Nov. 24, 2021, after being rescued while crossing the English Channel.Ben Stansall / AFP – Getty Images

One fisherman, Nicolas Margolle, told Reuters he had seen at least two small dinghies earlier on Wednesday.

He said one of the boats appeared to have people on board, but the other appeared to be empty.

Margolle said another fisherman called rescue operators after spotting the empty dinghy and seeing several people floating in the water nearby.

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He said there appeared to be more dinghies in the water on Wednesday because the weather was good. “But it’s cold,” he said.

The incident comes amid heightened tensions over small boat crossings on the Channel, with both French and British officials ramping up efforts to block asylum seekers from making the journey.

France’s coast guard and Britain’s Home Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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