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Five people dead after attempting English Channel crossing

Five people dead after attempting English Channel crossing

Five people have died in an attempt to cross the English Channel from France.

The incident happened near Wimereux on the French coast at about 2am on Sunday, triggering a major emergency response as 32 people were rescued and taken to Calais, while two people were in a critical condition, French authorities said.

Despite the tragedy crossings have continued, with a Border Force vessel arriving into the Port of Dover on Sunday with people believed to be migrants on board.

French media said the migrants got into difficulty on the French coast while trying to board the boat in darkness and cold temperatures.

France’s Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea said several “castaways” attempted to reach the beach before rescue teams discovered six unconscious people in the water and on the rocks along the coast.

Two others were found in a state of emergency, with one taken to hospital and another receiving treatment at the scene for severe hypothermia, it said.

The prefecture said a rescue helicopter remained on “high alert”, adding that conditions in the Channel were “particularly dangerous”.

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron told the Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme the deaths are ‘heartbreaking’ (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

A UK Government spokesman said: “Earlier today the French authorities responded to an incident in the Channel which resulted in the loss of five lives. These deaths are devastating and our thoughts are with the victims’ families and friends.”

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said the “heartbreaking” deaths showed “we’ve got to stop the boats”.

Speaking on BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, he said: “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.”

The former prime minister said the solution is forcibly removing unauthorised arrivals to Rwanda, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Bill to get the stalled policy up and running returns to the Commons for crunch votes this week.

Sir Keir Starmer
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer agreed that the boats need to be stopped but disputed the Government’s plans to send unauthorised arrivals to Rwanda (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the incident as a “tragic loss of life” but disputed the solution, saying on the same programme: “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.

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

Charity Care4Calais said the Government’s “unworkable” plans were leading to “preventable” tragedies and called for more safe routes to the UK for refugees.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Chief executive Steven Smith said: “As we enter an election year, we must argue for the introduction of a system of safe passage so no-one is forced to risk their lives crossing the Channel to claim asylum in the UK.

“It would end the tragic loss of life in our waters and save lives.”

The leaders of three groups on the Tory right warned the Prime Minister they could vote against his Rwanda Bill if he does not bow to their demands to toughen the legislation.

Mark Francois, Sir John Hayes and Danny Kruger urged colleagues to join them in “standing firm” when the “simply not good enough” legislation faces key votes this week.

The Bill, which the Prime Minister has placed as central to his promise to “stop the boats”, will reopen a rift in the Conservatives when it returns to the Commons on Tuesday.