Tragedy as two Channel migrants die in separate small boat disasters

Two Channel migrants die in separate small boat disasters: Asylum seeker drowns after packed dinghy capsizes while another has heart attack during scuffle with French riot cops while escaping second sinking vessel

  • The French coast guard rescued migrants caught in a sinking vessel near Calais
  • A man then died during clashes with riot cops near Sangatte this morning 

Two UK-bound migrants died today in separate small boat disasters in the English Channel.

One person died after an inflatable dinghy containing 66 people started sinking in the Channel earlier today, some five miles off the coast of Grand Fort Philippe near Calais, around midnight.

The French Coast Guard was able to begin rescuing survivors from 1:15am, but searches are ongoing for two reporting missing.  

Separately, a 25-year-old Sudanese man died of cardiac arrest following clashes with French riot police after a vessel sank at the Sangatte beach in Calais around 8:30am. He was declared dead at midday

‘The boat was sinking just after 7.30am, while it was still dark,’ said an investigating source. ‘There was chaos when riot police arrived on the beach, and tear gas was used to restrain dozens of people who had been on the boat.’

Downing Street said the tragedy near Grand Fort Philippe underlines the importance of Rishi Sunak’s to stop small boat crossings from France to Britain.

‘It serves as a stark reminder of how dangerous these crossings are and just how crucial it is that we work together to stop the boats and clamp down on the organised criminal gangs that are fuelling it,’ a spokesperson said. 

A child is picked up by a firefighter after escaping a sinking vessel at Sangatte today

Migrants rescued by the French coast guard following a tragedy near Calais this morning

In the earlier incident, French rescue vessels including the Apollo Moon and Notre Dame de Flandres responded to a Mayday appeal and 59 people out of around 80 were plucked out of the water by 2.15am.

‘Two of the rescued were found unconscious,’ said a spokesman for the emergency services.

READ MORE: Search continues for two more missing migrants after asylum seeker died when inflatable dinghy packed with 66 people started sinking in English Channel

‘One of them could not be resuscitated and died. Another victim, whose life is in danger, was evacuated by helicopter to Calais hospital.’

Helicopters were involved in a search-and-rescue operation, and everybody was accounted for by around 11am.

None of the victims in either incident were identified, but all are thought to be from the Middle East and Africa.

They were taking part in the first attempted crossings by small boats for 11 days because of poor weather in the Channel.

Both had been organised by people smugglers, meaning a criminal enquiry was launched into the tragedies.

In the second incident, local police said five were arrested ‘including a suspected people smuggler’.

A source from humanitarian association Utopia 56 said children were found in a ‘state of hypothermia’ in Sangatte this morning, the water falling to just 12C.

Some 730 people attempted the crossing from France to England in the first three days of December, when the sea was calm.

And 29,000 people have reached the UK in small boats this year, despite the British government saying ‘stopping the boats’ is a priority.

Emergency services attend the site of a small boat crossing disaster in the Channel today

Rescue ship Esvagt Charlie was deployed by French coastguard authority Premar to help those stuck in the water off the coast of Grand Fort Philippe

The government is pushing ahead with a plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda, despite the London Supreme Court ruling that the policy is unlawful.

The English Channel is one of the busiest and most dangerous shipping lanes in the world.

In August, six people died after a boat carrying migrants sank in the Channel off the French coast.

And in November 2021, at least 27 migrants died after a dinghy sank while heading to the UK – the highest recorded number of deaths from a single incident.

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