Receive free UK immigration updates
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest UK immigration news every morning.
At least six people have died after a boat carrying about 65 migrants seeking to reach the UK capsized in the English Channel on Saturday, according to French authorities.
Two people remained missing as search efforts by both nations’ coastguards continued, while several others were treated for injuries at local hospitals. A French prosecutor told Agence France-Presse that the dead included six men from Afghanistan who were about 30 years old.
The incident highlights the risks taken by migrants who attempt such crossings in small boats with the help of people smugglers, as well as the challenge authorities face in trying to prevent them.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government has repeatedly vowed to “stop the boats”, and has significantly upped financial assistance to France to monitor the coastline with patrols and drones.
Roughly 15,800 people have already made the crossing this year, according to UK government figures — about 15 per cent fewer than in the same period last year.
Almost 46,000 people crossed the Channel in 2022, up 60 per cent from a year earlier.
The numbers have increased in recent years after new controls at the Channel Tunnel and ports made land crossings all but impossible.
Suella Braverman, UK home secretary, said she had spoken to the UK Border Force teams working on the incident, adding: “My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic loss of life in the Channel today.”
Speaking at the port of Calais, Hervé Berville, the French junior minister responsible for maritime affairs, vowed to “fight relentlessly” against people smugglers “who are responsible for sending people to their deaths”.
In the early hours of Saturday, a cargo ship in the Channel reported a boat in trouble off the French coast near Sangatte beach, according to a statement from the Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea. French and British coastguard vessels and a surveillance helicopter were quickly deployed, and were able to save most of the passengers.
In 2022, five people died while attempting the crossing.
In 2021, 27 migrants including several children died when their boat sank, the deadliest such incident recorded. French judges have been investigating alleged wrongdoing by emergency responders in that case and have filed preliminary charges against five of them for allegedly not responding to repeated calls for help.