27 migrants drown in English Channel boat tragedy

French Interior Ministry on Thursday confirmed the death of 27 migrants who died after their boat capsized in the English Channel.

A spokesperson for the ministry said that the death toll of the tragedy, which was revised down from 31, was still preliminary.

On Wednesday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had spoken of 31 dead and 33 people on board the vessel that sank. Two people were rescued, he said.

The spokesperson said nothing conclusive could be said yet about how many people were on board the boat.

Four smugglers who may have been involved in the failed crossing from France have been arrested.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for a crisis meeting at the European level, saying France would not allow the English Channel to become a graveyard or let smugglers put human lives at risk.

He demanded an immediate increase in resources for the EU’s Frontex border protection agency.

A rescue operation was underway in the Channel by air and sea as French and British authorities search for anyone still in the water.

The emergency search was sparked when a fishing boat sounded the alarm earlier on Wednesday, after spotting several people at sea off the coast of France.

Earlier, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the shipwreck was a “tragedy.”

In a tweet, he said his thoughts were with “victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and injury.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on France to step up efforts to stem the flow of migrants crossing the Channel.

He said the tragic incident showed the operations that have taken place to date “haven’t been enough,” according to PA news agency.

Johnson said he wanted to work with the French authorities to “demolish” the business model of human traffickers who were “literally getting away with murder.”

Speaking to broadcasters in Downing Street, Johnson who chaired a meeting of the Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee – said he was “shocked, appalled and deeply saddened” by what had happened.

“What this shows is that the gangs who are sending people to sea in these dangerous crafts will literally stop at nothing,” he said.

Johnson suggested the French government had not always approached the problem in the way the British believed it should.

“We’ve had difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that we think the situation deserves.’’ (dpa/NAN)

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