Migrant boat sinks off English coast, at least 3 fatalities reported

Migrant boat sinks off English coast, at least 3 fatalities reported
Paramedics wait at Dover Marina, Dover, Britain, 14 December 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE/STUART BROCK)

DOVER, England, Dec 14 (Reuters) - A small boat carrying around 40 migrants has sunk off the southeastern coast of England in freezing temperatures, killing some of those on board, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

Britain’s government and emergency officials confirmed that an incident was ongoing, with lifeboats, helicopters and rescue teams working with the French and British navies to respond to an event that occurred at around 3:40 a.m.

British radio station LBC reported that 43 people had been rescued. Sky News said at least three people had died.

“We are aware of an incident in UK waters and all relevant agencies are supporting a coordinated response,” a government spokesperson said. “Further details will be provided in due course.”

It comes just over a year after 27 people died while attempting to cross the sea in an inflatable dinghy in November 2021, in the worst recorded accident of its kind in the Channel.

Temperatures have plunged across Britain in the last week, bringing snow to parts of the country. The temperature was logged at 2 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit) in a nearby town on Wednesday morning.

Despite the freezing temperatures, more than 500 migrants have made the perilous journey in small boats since the weekend alone, with the people traffickers who organise the crossings taking advantage of low winds and calm seas.

They have followed the more than 40,000 who have arrived from France this year, many having made the journey from Afghanistan or Iran to travel across Europe and on to Britain.

In the last year there has also been a significant increase in the number of Albanians crossing the sea.

Ambulances and emergency crews gathered on the quayside at the port of Dover to handle Wednesday’s sinking. Sky News said some people had been transferred to a hospital in Ashford, Kent, but it was not known if they were survivors or fatalities.

“I am aware of a distressing incident in the Channel this morning and I am being kept constantly updated while agencies respond and urgently establish the full facts,” Britain’s interior minister Suella Braverman said on Twitter.

“My heartfelt thoughts are with all those involved.”



Britain’s government has been under growing pressure to tackle the number of people arriving in small boats, after officials and charities condemned the state of migrant centres and the length of time it was taking to process arrivals.

Polls show that the government’s inability to halt the arrival of often young men via small boats is also a major frustration for many voters, especially after the country voted to leave the European Union so it could better control its borders.

The new incident occurred a day after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to toughen the laws to stop the small boats crossing the Channel, including legislation to prevent migrants from remaining in the country.

Sunak said that Britain’s “generosity” was being abused by people arriving illegally. Critics argue that while official routes exist for people to arrive in Britain from Ukraine and Hong Kong, there are no easy ways for people to apply to come to Britain from countries such as Afghanistan and Syria.

The government has said that a tougher line is also needed to deter people from risking their lives, and breaking the business model of people traffickers.

Data compiled by the Missing Migrants Project showed 205 migrants had been recorded dead or missing in the English Channel since 2014.

By Peter Nicholls

(Reporting by William James, Elizabeth Piper, Andrew MacAskill and Farouq Suleiman; Writing by Kate Holton editing by Elizabeth Piper, William James and Alex Richardson and Angus MacSwan)


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