Five migrants die attempting to cross Channel in freezing temperatures

Five migrants have died in an attempt to cross the English Channel in freezing temperatures, the French maritime authority said.

The group was attempting to reach a vessel off Wimereux when their small boat got into difficulty around 2am (0100 GMT), the maritime prefecture said.

“We have four dead migrants and one migrant in a critical condition at the hospital in Boulogne-sur-mer,” said one official.

This tragedy happened “when a boat left the beach, people found themselves in difficulty at sea to reach the boat”, another official explained.

The incident triggered a major emergency response as 72 people, including 10 children, were rescued and taken to Calais, French paper La Voix du Nord said. A navy helicopter, police and 50 firefighters were involved in the rescue operation.

First reported migrant Channel deaths 2024

A tugboat patrolling the coast found the bodies, the first reported migrant deaths on the Channel in 2024.

The region around Calais, the jumping-off point for the shortest crossing to England, has long been a magnet for migrants.

More than two decades after the closure of a Red Cross centre in Sangatte, hundreds of people still live in tents and makeshift shelters near Calais and Dunkirk, hoping for a chance to make the crossing hidden in a truck or aboard a small boat.

The boats are a political priority for the British government and a bone of contention with France, as tens of thousands of people a year have been making the dangerous crossing.

According to the British government nearly 30,000 migrants crossed the Channel from mainland Europe to Britain in small boats in 2023, an annual drop of more than a third.

Cameron: ‘Heartbreaking’

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said the “heartbreaking” deaths of four migrants as they tried to cross the English Channel showed “we’ve got to stop the boats”.

Ministers have been informed that the migrants died in an attempt to launch from French waters, the PA news agency understands.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, Lord Cameron said: “It’s heartbreaking when these things happen, and the loss of life that takes place. And you can only think about what an appalling end it would be, and the cold waters of the Channel in the middle of the night. It breaks my heart to hear about it.

“But it just shows we’ve got to stop the boats, we’ve got to stop this illegal trade in human beings.”

Sir Keir Starmer, who described the incident as a “tragic loss of life”, told Laura Kuenssberg he did not support radical action like the Rwanda plan as argued by Lord Cameron.

He said: “I think he is wrong about that. I absolutely agree that we need to stop these Channel crossings.They are dangerous, we have lost control of our borders, and we need to do something to stop the boats.

“Now, I think the starting place for that is to go after the criminal gangs that are running this vile trade.”

The Refugee Council called for “decisive action” to stop Channel crossings following the “terrible loss of life”.

Starmer: ‘Wake-up call’

Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “The sad reality is that this is not the first time we are waking up to such devastating news.

“With no meaningful commitment from the Government to expand safe routes for refugees, it’s only a matter of time before tragedy strikes again.

“This must act as a wake-up call to take decisive action and reduce dangerous Channel crossings by providing safe routes for those fleeing war-torn countries or repressive regimes.

“Rather than pushing ahead with unlawful and costly policies such as the Rwanda plan, the Government must put in place safe routes and seek to treat refugees and people seeking asylum with compassion and fairness in line with our country’s values.”

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

The UK Coastguard could not comment because the incident took place in French territorial waters.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.

Previous post Boy Named Banjo’s Ford Garrard Is Married! Inside the Elegant Wedding and Jazzy Afterparty (Exclusive)
Next post Hoosier Daddy! Rutgers wrestling is looking like a real threat in the Big Ten after impressive win over Indiana