More than 30 migrants have drowned after a boat capsized off Calais, France, in an attempt to cross the English Channel to Britain, in the worst tragedy to date involving illegal crossings of waterways.
The accident occurred on Wednesday when a group of migrants tried to take advantage of calm sea conditions to cross into Britain. However, the water in the English Channel is currently very cold, which has probably contributed to the large number of deaths.
The capsized boat and several bodies nearby were first found by French fishermen, who alerted the authorities, which led to a rescue operation. At least 31 people died in the accident, Franck Dhersin, deputy head of regional transport and mayor of Teteghem, told Reuters. The death toll is expected to increase further, as at least two people are still reported missing.
The Prime Minister of France Jean Castex called the accident one “tragedy,” blame it on human traffickers and other promoters of illegal migration.
“The sinking of the English Channel is a tragedy. My thoughts go to the many missing and injured victims of criminal smugglers who are taking advantage of their plight and misery.” Castex twittrade.
A similar reaction was expressed by his British counterpart Boris Johnson, who said he was “shocked and terrified and deeply saddened” of deaths. The Prime Minister convened an emergency COBRA meeting on the incident to assess the situation.
The incident is the biggest loss of human life from a single migrant boat capsizing in the canal. Before Wednesday’s drowning, the biggest accident was registered in October last year, when a migrant family of five died during their attempt to cross into Britain.
The canal has seen an increased flow of illegal migrants this year, with over 25,700 people taking the dangerous journey across the waterway, known for heavy maritime traffic and strong currents. So far this year, the figure is already three times higher than the number of registered crossings throughout 2020.
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