The dinghy that sank in the Canal, killing 27 people, was “fragile” and like a “paddling pool”

The dinghy that sank in the Channel with dozens of migrants on board was “fragile” and like an “inflatable swimming pool”, a French minister said last night.

At least 27 people, including five women and a girl, have drowned in the deadliest crash since the crisis after the boat sank Wednesday off the northern port of Calais.

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More than 40 migrants were photographed this morning launching rubber boats into the English ChannelCredit: Reuters
A group of migrants, including at least five children, were seen entering the water from a beach near Wimereux

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A group of migrants, including at least five children, were seen entering the water from a beach near WimereuxCredit: Reuters
Emergency services arrive at the port of Calais in response to reports of casualties

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Emergency services arrive at the port of Calais in response to reports of casualties
The tragedy, which occurred at the point indicated on this map, caused the death of 27 migrants

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The tragedy, which occurred at the point indicated on this map, caused the death of 27 migrants

After the tragedy, a massive rescue operation was launched in French waters, with at least three helicopters and three boats lined up to take part in the searches.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed that 27 people died in the single deadliest disaster along the busy road.

At a press conference in Calais, Darmanin described the dinghy that sank as “very fragile” and said it was “like a swimming pool you blow up in your garden”.


It comes as:

  • French policemen lazily watch migrant rafts heading to the UK before 27, including 5 women and a girl dying in the English Channel
  • Boris Johnson accuses Frenchman of allowing migrant smugglers to “get away with murder”
  • France warned a year ago that turning a blind eye to the Channel crossings would create a cemetery at sea

With 34 people believed to be on the boat, the ship ran into trouble shortly after setting sail from the French coast.

An emergency search was initiated when a fishing boat sounded the alarm after spotting several unconscious people in the water.

One of the French lifeboat workers, Charles Devos, described seeing “a flat, deflated dinghy with little air left to help it float” surrounded by bodies.

Coast Guard HM ships in Dover, along with Border Force ship BF Hurricane, responded to the Mayday and arrived in about 45 minutes, MailOnline reports.

The joint search and rescue operation by French and British authorities was finally canceled late Wednesday.

Following the sinking, Dunkirk prosecutors opened a criminal investigation for “manslaughter” and “assisting illegal immigration in an organized gang”.

Darmanin said four suspected traffickers “directly related” to the tragedy were arrested.

He said: “1,500 people have been arrested since the beginning of January, and four of them today. We suspect they were directly related to this particular crossing.”

The minister said that “the criminal nature of the smugglers who organize these crossings cannot be condemned enough”.

As a result, the people smugglers had organized the passage of the overcrowded boat, charging thousands of people on board to reach Britain.

Boris Johnson, who chaired an emergency meeting of the COBRA ministerial group, said he was “shocked, dismayed and deeply saddened” by the loss of life in the English Channel, one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.

He said the deaths “underscored how dangerous it is” to cross from France.

‘STRAPPING TRAGEDY’

Speaking to reporters in Downing Street, the Prime Minister added: “What it shows is that the gangs who are sending people overboard on these dangerous boats will literally stop at nothing.

“But what I fear also demonstrates is that the operation conducted by our friends on the beaches, supported as you know with 54 million pounds from the UK to help patrol the beaches, the technical support we have given has not been enough.

“Our offer is to increase our support but also to work together with our partners on the affected beaches, on the launching grounds of these boats.

“This is something that I hope will be acceptable now, given what has happened.”

He suggested that the French government did not always approach the problem in the way the British believed it should.

“We have had a hard time persuading some of our partners, especially the French, to do things the way we think the situation deserves,” he said.

“I understand the difficulties that all countries face, but what we want now is to do more together – and this is the offer we are making.”

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “Losing lives in such dire and desperate circumstances is a devastating and heartbreaking tragedy.

“The UK government, France and the wider international community have a duty to prevent people from being forced into such danger.”

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron has called for an urgent meeting of EU ministers.

“France will not allow the Channel to turn into a cemetery,” he said in a statement.

DISASTER IN THE CANAL

According to the French government, the boat capsized shortly after 2pm.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Paris said: “At around 2pm on Wednesday, a fisherman reported the discovery of about fifteen bodies floating off Calais.”

French Prime Minister Jean Castex called the shipwreck a “tragedy”.

“The disaster in the Channel is a tragedy,” he said.

“My thoughts go out to the many missing and injured, victims of criminal traffickers who exploit their misery and misery”.

The number of migrants who reached the UK by sea this year is now more than three times the total for the whole of last year.

Pierre-Henri Dumont, French MP from Calais, said the English Channel risks becoming the new Mediterranean Sea for migrant crossings unless the UK and France work together to find a solution.

He told Sky News: “We all need, on both sides of the Channel, to stop making migrants an internal discussion with internal policies and try to figure out how to find a solution.

“The Canal is now becoming the new Mediterranean Sea, it’s like an open-air cemetery. We have to find a way to finish it.”

Several records have been broken in recent weeks as others continue to make the perilous journey to Britain.

The current record is 1,185 landings in Britain in a single day, as Priti Patel is facing increasing pressure to cope with the crisis.

Tom Davies, Amnesty International UK’s campaign manager for migrant and refugee rights, said the charity was “deeply saddened by the loss of these lives.”

He said: “How many more times will we have to see people lose their lives trying to reach safety in the UK due to the lamentable lack of safe means to do so?”

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, added: “This is a humanitarian disaster that should never have happened.

“It is incomprehensible that so many lives have been lost by people on a desperate and heartbreaking journey to Britain who were just trying to find safety.”

Earlier this week, the Interior Minister said an offer by border force guards and policemen to reinforce Channel patrols was snubbed.

He dug up during a stormy council grill about the small boat crisis that’s infuriating Tory MPs.

It was revealed last week that only five out of 24,000 asylum seekers who made the treacherous crossing this year were repatriated.

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said the crisis “has been going on for too long”.

‘WAKES UP’

“We need to stop further loss of life this winter,” he said.

“Today’s tragic events are a wake-up call.

“It is time to take swift and effective action to end this crisis once and for all.”

It comes after some 40 migrants were photographed this morning launching rubber boats into the English Channel in an attempt to reach Britain.

Migrants, including at least five children, were seen entering the water from a beach near Wimereux, a few miles north of Boulogne-sur-Mer, early in the morning.

Many people boats were also seen landing in Dungeness, Kent this afternoon.

Bella Sankey, director of the charity Detention Action, said she was “truly saddened” by the deaths and blamed the government’s failures to allow for the current crisis.

“An inter-party group of parliamentarians has tabled a humanitarian visa proposal that would provide a safe route and save lives and we hope MPs will vote it into law by Christmas,” he added.

Some 25,000 migrants crossed the Channel this year, far eclipsing the roughly 8,000 who arrived in 2020 and the 1,000 who arrived in 2019.

More than 4,000 have made the trip in November so far, the highest number ever in a single month, and the surge shows no sign of slowing.

French officials first revealed details of how they spent £ 9m from the UK taxpayer, which was agreed as part of a £ 54m deal in the summer.

A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said: “More than 100 mobile vehicles are being handed over to the ground for patrols and arrests, with equipment adapted to the specific nature of the terrain.”

The specialist kit would include quads, 4x4s, rigid-hulled boats and “vehicles equipped with sophisticated monitoring and detection equipment”.

French police were nearby as the migrants prepared to make the journey across the water

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French police were nearby as the migrants prepared to make the journey across the waterCredit: Reuters
A group of over 40 migrants reacts by managing to get on a rubber dinghy

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A group of over 40 migrants reacts by managing to get on a rubber dinghyCredit: Reuters
Migrants are helped to disembark from an RNLI beach in Dungeness

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Migrants are helped to disembark from an RNLI beach in DungenessCredit: Reuters
A man holds a child in his arms as migrants walk along the beach after being helped to disembark

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A man holds a child in his arms as migrants walk along the beach after being helped to disembarkCredit: AFP
Nadhim Zahawi says the small boats crisis should “worry us all”

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