According to the French maritime authority, five individuals have perished and a sixth is in critical condition after encountering trouble in freezing waters while attempting to migrate from northern France to the UK.
At approximately 9am on Sunday morning, a walker discovered the body of a fifth victim, while four others were found deceased earlier in the day.
According to reports from local media, on Sunday a group of over 70 individuals were trying to get onto boats near the coastal town of Wimereux.
A total of 72 individuals were saved during the night, and 20 of them were experiencing severe hypothermia. This included two young children and one pregnant woman who were rushed to receive urgent medical treatment in Boulogne.
According to La Voix Du Nord, a one-month-old infant was among those saved from the drowning accident.
At 1:45am (0045 GMT), the maritime authority in northern France’s Channel region was notified of a boat experiencing difficulties near the Wimereux beach.
At 2am, security personnel in the vicinity saved individuals who were closest to the shore. Three unconscious individuals were found in the sea at this time. Fifteen minutes later, a French navy helicopter from Le Touquet came to the scene. A fourth unconscious person was seen by the Abeille Normandie patrol boat and was lifted up by the helicopter using a winch.
The statement stated that two additional individuals with concerning health conditions were saved by internal security personnel on the beach. One of them was unresponsive and transported to Boulogne-sur-Mer hospital, while the other was experiencing severe hypothermia.
A sizable surveillance team persisted in their efforts throughout the night, and at approximately 8:45am, a fifth individual was discovered deceased on the shore by a passerby. The prefecture stated that this is the first reported death of individuals attempting to cross the Channel since December 15th.
Over 30 individuals received care from emergency responders. According to an anonymous source, approximately 70 people were transported around 3am, including families with young children. The source also shared that some survivors chose not to stay and instead planned to go to the Dunkirk train station in order to reach an accommodation center in Armentières, as reported by the Agence France-Presse news agency.
The public prosecutor’s office in Boulogne-sur-Mer has initiated an inquiry into charges of “aggravated manslaughter” and other offenses.
Local media reports have stated that the initial four fatalities were individuals of Iraqi and Syrian nationality.
According to La Voix du Nord, numerous individuals attempted to cross to the UK using the calmer winds, despite the freezing temperatures and 9C (48.2F) water.
On Sunday, the UK Home Office released data showing that 124 individuals seeking asylum and immigration crossed the English Channel on Saturday using three boats. This marks the first instances of crossings in the past 27 days. Harsh weather conditions are thought to have played a role in the significant decline in crossings over the past few weeks.
The UK’s foreign secretary, David Cameron, expressed the importance of disrupting the people-smuggling industry after a tragic event resulted in deaths. He stated that it was heartbreaking, but emphasized the need to prevent boats and the illegal trafficking of human beings.
Labour’s Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition, called the event “terrible” and emphasized the need for further actions to prevent criminals from taking advantage of individuals. He stated to the BBC, “I reject the notion that these gangs are invincible and we are powerless to stop them.”
A representative from the charitable group Utopia 56 expressed their concern about the immense suffering and tragedy caused by these circumstances. They question why we allow individuals to perish when there are feasible solutions available, and why political accountability is never addressed.
Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said he was “deeply saddened by the terrible loss of life” and that the deaths must act as a “wake-up call” for the UK government to “take decisive action and reduce dangerous Channel crossings by providing safe routes for those fleeing war-torn countries or repressive regimes”.
The year 2023 saw a decrease of 36% in Channel crossings, while there was a 30% rise in fatalities among asylum seekers in northern France awaiting their journey – resulting in 23 deaths.
A French organization expressed concern that ongoing removals from temporary settlements near Calais and Dunkirk could force more individuals to risk their lives crossing the Channel.