British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed his grief on Wednesday after four people died in a small migrant boat accident in the English Channel between Britain and France.
“I am sure the entire House of Representatives will share my grief over the sinking of a small boat in the English Channel in the early hours of this morning and the tragic loss of life,” Sunak told Parliament.
Our hearts are with all those affected and we salute those who participated in the massive rescue operation. »
The BBC reported earlier today that a small boat carrying about 40 migrants sank off the southeast coast of England in freezing temperatures.
British government and emergency officials have confirmed that there is an ongoing incident. Lifeboats, helicopters and rescue teams are working with the French and UK navies to respond to an event that occurred around 3.40am.
A government spokesperson said: “We are aware of an incident in UK waters and all relevant agencies are supporting a coordinated response. The government later confirmed four deaths.
Britain’s LBC reported that 43 people had been rescued.
The number of people arriving in England via the English Channel has doubled in the past two years, and the incident comes just over a year later. After 27 people were killed trying to cross the sea in a boat in November 2021, in the worst accident of its kind ever recorded in the canal.
Temperatures fell across Britain last week, bringing snow to parts of the country. The temperature was recorded at 2 degrees Celsius 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 smugglers orchestrating crossings taking advantage of light winds and calm seas.
The British Home Secretary replies:
I am aware of a disturbing incident on the channel this morning and am being kept informed as agencies respond and establish all facts quickly. My heartfelt thoughts go out to everyone involved.
They have tracked more than 40,000 people who have arrived from France this year, many of them making the journey from Afghanistan or Iran across Europe to Britain.
Ambulances and emergency crews gathered at the dock in the Port of Dover to deal with a shipwreck on Wednesday. Sky News said some people had been taken to a hospital in Ashford, Kent, but it was not clear if they were survivors or among the dead.
Tougher measures proposed by the Conservatives
The UK government is under increasing pressure to deal with the number of people arriving in small boats, after officials and charities condemned the state of migrant centers and the time they take to deal with arrivals.
The new incident comes a day after the British prime minister announced plans to strengthen laws to stop small boats crossing the English Channel, including legislation to prevent migrants from staying in the country.
Data collected by the Missing Migrants Project shows that 205 migrants have died or gone missing in the English Channel since 2014.
Sunak said those who arrived illegally were abusing Britain’s “generosity”.
Over the past year, there has also been a significant increase in the number of Albanians crossing the sea. Sunak announced a new five-point strategy to deal with illegal migration, including plans to speed up the return of Albanian asylum-seekers.
The British government earlier this year announced plans to deport migrants to Rwanda, among other efforts, hoping to have a chilling effect on those who arrive on small boats.
That policy was the subject of a legal challenge in London’s High Court in early September when a coalition of human rights groups and a trade union argued that Rwanda’s policy was impractical and immoral. A decision is expected on Monday.
Sunak said the government would resume flights to Rwanda and announced that parliament would be asked to set quotas for the number of people who could be admitted on humanitarian grounds.
Critics claim that while there are official ways for people to enter Britain from Ukraine and Hong Kong, for years there has been no easy way for people to apply to countries such as Afghanistan and Syria.